DUTCH CRAGUN HONORED WITH TOP TOURISM INDUSTRY AWARD
January 27, 2010
By RENEE RICHARDSON
EAST GULL LAKE – A man who began his resort career at age 9 in charge of worms and minnows was recognized by the state Tuesday for his contribution to the tourism industry.
Merrill “Dutch” Cragun was presented with the Outstanding Individual in Tourism Award.
The award, the last of the night, came as a surprise announcement at the state’s annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference at Cragun’s Resort in East Gull Lake near Brainerd.
Cragun gave up tickets to a University of Minnesota-Northwestern basketball game to attend the award benefit only after the state tourism director told him it wouldn’t fair for the host to leave.
“It’s a total surprise,” Cragun said. His wife, Irma, poked his shoulder as the award recipient was being described. “That’s you,” she told him.
Cragun credited Irma’s work with the resort. “This award really, truthfully goes to her.”
The award is presented to someone who has most contributed to the state’s $11 billion travel and tourism industry by actively working to advance and promote tourism in Minnesota.
“I thinks it’s a well-deserved award,” Irma Cragun said of her husband.
John Edman, state tourism director, said Cragun’s name is known throughout the state. In choosing the award, special consideration is given to the level of achievements over a lifetime and overall contributions to the state’s image or tourism industry.
“He puts his heart and soul into this industry,” Edman said before the award was announced, adding it was time Cragun received the award. Considerable effort went into keeping the award winner’s name secret until the presentation.
Edman said the award is presented to someone who thinks beyond their individual property to consider the overall health of the industry. The award dates back more than four decades. The goal is to recognize someone who has made that industry a passion.
Edman began his remarks noting Cragun’s father was a pioneer in the industry, building six cabins on Gull Lake’s Pine Beach in 1940.
Dutch Cragun graduated from the University of Minnesota and served in the Army during the Korean War. He took over the family resort business in 1957 and presided over its development with his wife, Irma.
The resort now has 61 cabins, a 185-room hotel, conference and meeting facilities and employs 300 people in the summer and 160 during the winter.
Edman said Cragun’s is Minnesota’s largest four-season golf resort and conference center, but it’s still run like a family business. Edman noted the Craguns’ community involvement and work on industry councils and associations.
“He’s been making friends and memories since 1940,” Edman said. “And each of the three million guests who have stayed with him feel like a welcome friend.”
The tourism conference, with speakers and sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, attracted about 300 people from a broad mix of industry elements from resorts to museums.
The focus this year was on ways tourism businesses may succeed in what is being termed the “‘new normal’ of today’s altered economy” and changed spending patterns from consumers.
Tourism is a key sector of the state’s economy. The leisure and hospitality industry employs more than 244,000 Minnesotans.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
“Irma’s Kitchen fabulous food! Great service. Highly recommended. Went to Cragun’s golf course for Martini’s that were very good. Very relaxing for a romantic get away weekend!”
Kathy De Lacy, Mound, MN
“Fall golf was terrific, Camp Cragun’s always loved by the kids and give parents a nice break, pool area always clean. Even pontoon rides always enjoyable.”
Susan Segerstrom, Brooklyn Center, MN
“Cragun’s is always an exceptional family experience. This is our 5th trip in the last 15 months. We enjoy all of the great family activities, the food, the lake and the beautiful scenery and the very friendly staff. Don’t change a thing. We love Cragun’s!”
Chris and Melonee Chmiel, Woodbury, MN
“We had a really nice dining experience at Irma’s kitchen. The food was tasty and appealing to the eye. The view overlooking Gull Lake is beautiful. Even the iconic Dutch Cragun greeted us at our table and inquired about our meal. Dutch…thanks for Knuckles and the Squirrel. We will visit again.”
Rae Whitman Thompson
“All of the resort staff impressed me with how friendly they were. At the front desk, the dining room, the marina, the golf course, even the maintenance staff – everyone was more than welcoming. We had a great time and look forward to our next stay!”
“Completely local. Organic. Delicious. Love the variety and vibe. I will be back.”
Erik and I want to thank you very much for making this the best day of our lives. Our wedding was so perfect and was everything we could have hoped for! It was beautiful and we will have to share pictures with you when we get them back.
Erik and Jordyn Carter
“We just ate at Irma’s Kitchen for our wedding anniversary! The service was amazing! The decor and view breathtaking! We were very impressed with the menu and I don’t have words to describe my steak it was cooked beautifully! We will be coming back for more that’s for sure! Thank you so much!”
Mandy Jean Dewald
“Best vacation for the money-great family gathering spot.”
Mari Minard, Apple Valley, MN
“This was our first visit. We loved it. It’s a wonderful way for a family to get together.”
Elizabeth (Betsy) Benner, St Peter, MN
“All staff was so pleasant and helpful – especially in the dining room and Legacy Grille.”
“Your place is so wonderful for our family holiday get-together. This was our 6th year. I always have a safe feeling when I’m at Cragun’s.”
J. Brandon, Bovey MN
“We just ate at Irma’s for our 7 year wedding anniversary and both agree it’s the best tasting meal we’ve ever had! We can’t get over the flavors. Service was great, from Elliot, our server, to Helena and Natalie at the host stand. Kudos!”
Natalie Ann Nelson
“Rented snowmobiles and the sleds were in excellent condition, staff that assisted us was excellent, friendly and helpful. Wonderful experience!”
Lisa Prasky, Champlin, MN
“Great way to get away and mix business meetings with beautiful scenery and fun activities.”
Angela Duff, St. Jude Medical, MN
“We just had a family reunion here, spending a very fun and relaxing week. Our age range is 73 to 6, and we all had lots to do. My family has been coming here for 45 years but it’s more than our sentimental favorite – we find the service to be excellent and the facilities to be very good”
Karen G, Ft. Wayne, IN
“Hard to believe after more than a decade and a half of wonderful reunions this was our best yet! Thanks!”
Paul Crosby, Greenacres, WA
“Cragun’s offered exceptional service for our recent meeting with beautiful, modern meeting space at the Legacy, great food – on time and even had individual name bag tags for our clients to take home as a memento. Overall, our customers enjoyed an excellent meeting at Cragun’s.”
Ann Carlon, Minnesota Energy Resources
“We have booked a winter weekend for our family almost every year. It is a great place…there are many activities for both adults and children…lodging accommodations are roomy, and we are not at all cramped in our cabin. This is a great value for our money.”
Louise Lind, Duluth, MN
“Irma’s Kitchen food was excellent so fresh and original. Ate a meal there and went back for dessert. We have been coming up to the resort for 30 + years and always find it so friendly and relaxing. Staff great throughout the years. View is beautiful.”
Cindy Winkelman, Zimmerman, MN
“Thank you for everything you did to make our rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and reception a smashing success. I could have never imagined how beautiful and fun it would end up being. Your behind the scenes coordinating ensured that Justin and I were able to have a great time without worrying about a thing.”
“What a wonderful resort for families with small children. The playground on the beach was just what the kids needed! Shallow clear water, pontoons for our family to go for a ride, horse drawn trolleys! This place is a families dream!”
Mike Engelmann, Mankato, MN
“Cragun’s was fabulous…it fit our budget perfectly and we had a great time with the eight of us…the food – especially the Friday night dinner by the pool and the Sunday morning brunch – was absolutely fabulous.“
Marilyn for the Mick’s Family Getaway
“Irma’s Kitchen is an outstanding restaurant. Food and staff first rate quality. Eat there! Enjoy.”
Syd Hepworth, Winnipeg, MB
“Food and service could not be any better. Cragun’s is a great location for a large or small scale meeting or event. The staff does whatever it takes to make things easier for you.”
Scott Anderson, Ducks Unlimited
“Best package deals in the Brainerd area for golf, food and lodging. Well worth the price.”
“Absolutely great golf!”
R. Rogers, Redding CA
“Family reunions at Craguns’s are fabulous – there’s something everyone can enjoy, from toddler to Grandma!”
Joyce Statz, Austin, TX
“Well deserving of its 5-star rating. My favorite golf destination in Minnesota and the friendly staff always makes us feel welcome. I organize group golf trips and they are the best facility to work with that I have found.”
“Just wanted to thank you so much for making our wedding day absolutely perfect…you truly are great at what you do.”
Jeff and Beth Mlekoday
“I love it here! All of the Cragun’s employees are friendly and helpful. The food is the best! You can tell that all of the Cragun’s people value their customers. Thank you.”
Cynthia Kujawa, Coon Rapids, MN
Well, I don’t think the day could have been any better! Everything was perfect! We had so many compliments and everyone had a blast. Thank you so much for your help. Thank you for making our big day perfect!
Beth and Greg Shiemann
I wanted to take a moment and thank you for all the hard work you put into making our reception wonderful and memorable. It was definitely “A Night to Remember. We had so many positive comments from our guests about how good the food was and what a good time everyone had. I also want to thank you for all the time you took in helping us plan our event. Larry and I both feel that you went the extra mile for us. I have been telling everyone I know that if they ever need to plan an event, Cragun’s is the place to do it. Thank you again. We appreciate all that you did for us.
Sandi Barton and Larry Menk
“As a planner of many events, your coordinating staff made my job much easier. With their knowledge and experience, we were able to save time and money. They took special care in planning our event as if it was their own. They listened to our special needs and exceeded our expectation. Your meeting, exhibit space, and sleeping accommodations are large and spacious.”
“We came from Winnipeg, Canada, for a relaxing family weekend. We had a great time! The staff is fantastic here.”
N. Gouliquer, Winnepeg, Canada
“The entire staff who attended the meeting was more than pleased with the facility, as well as the staff working there. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Cragun’s to my friends, family and co-workers. I look forward to my next visit.”
Vivian “Viv” Krueger, St. John’s University
“Great to have Irma’s Kitchen open for the season. Checked out the newly remodeled lounge last night, nice modern rustic feel and new deck. We enjoyed some live music, as ever the best steaks in town. A mix of favorites and new items on the menu. If you eat nothing else have the crispy pork belly and scallops social plate, wow, served on blue corn grits, I discovered I can love grits, who knew? Great food, relaxed vibe, we’ll be back, if you love food this is where you should be eating.”
“It was an amazing place for a wedding reception. Enjoyed the happy hour on the deck. Then a wonderful meal in the dining room and then a great party in the reception hall. Cragun’s terrific facility made for a memorable time attending a wedding reception there. Staff was extremely helpful with whatever need came up throughout our time at Craguns. Thank you!”
Sharon Johnson, Saint Michael, MN
I just want to start by thanking you for everything this last weekend. You were amazing and were so helpful! It was truly the best day ever! We appreciate all the hard work and planning that went into our day.
“We came here mainly to golf and we were not disappointed. The courses were fantastic!”
Dave Knapp, Andover, MN
“Had the BEST family reunion ever, thanks for the memories!”
Steve Tenvoorde, Saint Cloud, MN
“We recently had our daughter’s wedding reception at the Legacy. We want to thank you so much and tell you how pleased we were with everything. Your staff coordinated everything for us. We didn’t have to worry about a thing. We have heard so many positive comments about the food, the setting and how everything just flowed. The day is a wonderful memory and everyone had a great time.”
Jim and Jennifer Owens
“First time staying at Cragun’s. We didn’t know what to expect. It was all great. Wonderful food, fun activities and friendly staff. It exceeded our expectations!”
Janet and Lee Nelson, Lakeville, MN
“Our son’s wedding at Cragun’s was fabulous! We would recommend it to anyone.”
Joe Thompson, West Saint Paul, MN
“This is our first visit to Cragun’s Resort. The service has been excellent at the resort and the Legacy Golf Courses. Everyone is very helpful and friendly. It was a real treat to be met at your car, given a golf cart, and have your clubs put on the cart. At the end of you game, met by a friendly face and had your clubs wiped off and put in your car. This will be a memorable vacation and hopefully we’ll be back.”
Danny Fousrge, Algona, IA
I was at Cragun’s for the Barton-Menk wedding. I would like to thank the wedding planner, wait staff and bartenders for a job well done!
“We enjoyed all of the organized entertainment that was provided for our Summer Getaway… pontoon rides, trolley ride, wild animal show, magic show, bonfire and movie on the beach. The kids attended Camp and enjoyed it. We mainly interacted with the staff at the Marina and they were great. Thank you for a wonderful family vacation.”
Kevin Kelley, Bloomington, MN
“It was the first year our 4-year-old could attend Camp Cragun’s and he loved it. We didn’t know if he would stay there without us, but by the end he didn’t want to leave! He’s excited to go there again on our next trip. We started going to Cragun’s each year starting when our first son was 9 months old. Now it’s our family tradition.”
Robert Kirchberg, Woodbury, MN
“Activities were fantastic – ice bowling, kitty cat snowmobiles, trolley rides. The New Year’s Eve party in the Sports Centre was so much fun! We stayed there all night with the kiddos and they loved it! We visit Cragun’s every year over 4th of July, but this was our first winter trip. Loved it! Thank you!“
Kendra Whinnery, Maplewood, MN
“Service, food, lodging and staff are all second to none. Not only would I recommend Cragun’s, I would advise it.”
Bryan Johnson, Discover Church Men’s Retreat, Minneapolis, MN
Greg and I cannot thank you enough for stepping in and helping us wrap up our planning and carry out our wedding day! Everything went perfectly! We could not have asked for a better day. Thank you so very much for all you did for us.
Beth and Greg Dingmann
“I had the pleasure of staying and playing golf at Cragun’s Resort and would recommend this spectacular facility to everyone who loves to relax in first class comfort and enjoy a round of golf on a challenging course.”
Brad James, U of M Golf Coach
“Everything turned out fantastic! Sarah and Josh’s day was perfect. It was the kind of day that a Father dreams of for his daughter. Having the reception at the Legacy could not have been better… I would recommend the Legacy to anyone who is looking for that “Special” place to make a wedding day complete.”
Dean Martinson, Hudson, WI
“We wanted to again thank you for all your help in organizing a fun-filled Family Reunion at Christmas! It was a huge success! Looks like we’ll be returning next year too.”
Vicki Kelly, Burnsville, MN
“Best place, best value, it’s the best by far! Don’t change a thing especially the family atmosphere and prices!”
Debbie McLean, Cottage Grove, MN
“We have found that this is the best resort to bring our family for a vacation. The staff is so friendly. We love it here!!!! Thank you!”
Kevin Kuehl – Alexandria, MN
“Being at a secluded resort enabled our board to run free with ideas without the distractions of the office or hometown. We met all the goals of our meeting and had time to network with colleagues. Cragun’s had a variety of activities to suit everyone’s taste. Thank you for the great detail you put into our meeting, you made the smallest of meetings turn into an event that we’ll remember for a long time.”
Board of Directors
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us plan our perfect wedding day. You were incredible to work with and made it stress free. We appreciate everything you did for us and we couldn’t be happier with how our wedding day played out. Simply Perfect! Thank you again.
Steph and Tyler Thiede
“Cragun’s offers old-fashioned friendliness and tons of family friendly activities along with the most beautiful views of Gull Lake imaginable. The amenities, the lodging and the staff are all top-notch.”
Kathryn Belfield, Lakeville, MN
“Just want to send a note of THANK YOU!!! I’m still hearing from family about how much fun they had and how wonderful Cragun’s was. Here are some of the comments: “The resort was perfect, plenty to do, big rooms, good food, and on a great lake.” “I got 3 hours of complaining how they “didn’t want to leave Minnesota” on the drive back to the Twin Cities”. “I’m now hearing talk amongst the Charlton “grapevine” that we’ve found “The Reunion Place” and that a return trip makes a lot of sense in 2-3 years.” “What an amazing vacation we had! I went to work and told everybody who even slightly inquired how MN was and told them what a terrific time we all had! Nobody could believe it! I think they all thought I would come back looking like a giant mosquito bite!” Again, thank you so much for your help and even putting up with me. I get the impression we’ll be back.”
Dick Lafean, MN
“I don’t think there are words to explain how fantastic this vacation was. Everything from food to staff, lodging to activities, was phenomenal. I love the emphasis placed on making this a place for us to use. So wonderful!”
Stephanie & Jeff Killian, Moundsview, MN
“Best combination of food, golf and lodging dollar-for-dollar in the state!”
“Our Board of Directors LOVES Cragun’s. The meeting accommodations are first-rate. The on-the-beach bonfire is a great way to unwind after a rigorous day. Cragun’s convention services staff is attentive to all of our needs. They take care of the meeting details and allow us to focus on planning our future. That’s the way it should be!”
Carol Buftan, MN Safety Council
“I cannot state enough what a GREAT weekend getaway this was for us and our three young grandsons; ages 6, 5, and 3. LOVED the pool, pontoon ride, fishing, walking, playground, etc. Also really appreciate the emails prior and after asking for feedback.”
Lori Masters, Balsam Lake, WI
“Cragun’s has offered the best service and accommodations that our family has enjoyed in organizing 16 family reunions across the country. Everyone had a great time and felt “at home” at Cragun’s. The staff and service are beyond expectation – from planning our event to the activities and entertainment, delicious meals and attentive housekeeping.”
Amy Main, Pearce Hargreaves Reunion, Waukee, IA
“We went boating for a day, golfed for a day, hung out at the pools and beach. We had a fantastic time and plan to come back every year!”
Carl Hensley Lll, Shakopee, MN