Knife River Tourism Going Strong Despite Pandemic

KNIFE RIVER, Minn.– Tourism this year has continued to be a question mark due to the effects of COVID-19, but businesses in Knife River have been making the most of the summer for those making the trip.

Penmarallter Campground Owner Penny Burton has been busy, seeing guests from 49 different states coming in this summer.

She’s seen a lot more new campers and guests who book longer stays compared to other summers. While some regulars decided to stay home because of COVID-19 concerns, Burton says it’s been a great season and is booked through September.

“It far exceeded whatever we thought it was going to be,” said Burton. “I really felt like we’d have a lot of Minnesota folks and maybe Wisconsin and maybe North and South Dakota but we’ve had people from all states.”

No tents are allowed here because of the pandemic. But Burton says self-containing units like campers are one reason why it’s been so busy.

“They can prepare their own meals. They can sleep in a bed that belongs to them.”

Great Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River opened for the season in late April as normal. But the store inside has been closed. Customers had to order their candy online and pick it up from the porch.

Owner Andy Matson then turned one of their side buildings into a pick-up window for people coming through town.

“It’s something that we’d almost think about for the future for next year or the year after or maybe some type of option like that,” said Matson.

Business at the store took off in late June with the parking lot full of customers picking up their orders. Something he expects to continue with fall tourism right around the corner.

“It’s definitely always a busy time. I don’t really expect it to change too much this year either,” said Matson. “I think people are going to want to get out of the house as much as they can before winter comes and explore the area.”

Great Lakes Candy Kitchen’s takeout window will be open every day starting at the end of September to keep up with business during the fall and holiday seasons.

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