Skiers make their way to the bonfire at the end of the trail during last year’s candlelight ski in Whalan. This year’s ski is set for Saturday, Feb. 6, and will be accompanied by a soup supper at the Whalan town hall. NEWS LEADER FILE PHOTO
Skiers make their way to the bonfire at the end of the trail during last year’s candlelight ski in Whalan. This year’s ski is set for Saturday, Feb. 6, and will be accompanied by a soup supper at the Whalan town hall. NEWS LEADER FILE PHOTO

A staple of the winter season — the 24th annual Whalan candlelight ski — will be held Saturday, Feb. 6, from 5 to 8:30 p.m., on the Root River Trail. It starts from the Whalan town hall.

Cross-country skiing on the DNR’s trail along the river is nothing short of fabulous — more on that later.

The event has grown into a community gathering over the years. In a large part, that has occurred due to the popular homemade soup supper served up in the town hall in conjunction with the candlelight ski.

Donna Novotny of Chatfield spent her youth in Whalan and returns each year to help organize and serve the meal. The daughter of Ervin “Perk” and Ilene Anderson, Novotny said, “It was a great place to grow up. We may not have had much, but we had everything. I love Whalan.”

She recalled climbing the hills around the town and swimming in the streams. Novotny also remembered the railroad and the train that would roll slowly into Whalan in the evening at 9.

“With that whistle you had darn well better get home. There was no reason not to. It was a curfew,” she said with a laugh.

Soup supper

Novotny explained the meal is a service project of the Whalan Legion Erickson-Rose Post No. 637, a post that’s existed since the 1940s. Members have been holding the soup supper with the ski event for at least the past 15 to 20 years. When funds earned over the years reached $5,000, Novotny said the Post approached the Whalan City Council to also provide some funding and put it all toward renovation of the town hall. The project got a green light.

Around 2011, the building was moved off its foundation, shored up, moved back, and other interior improvements made. Additional events also helped raise funds.

Now funds from the meal go toward various projects of the Post. Novotny said up to around 20 men and women of the Post help with the meal, along with community members.

Details still needed to be finalized, but Novotny said the 2016 soup and dessert supper would likely run from 5 until 7:30 p.m. “Or until gone,” she added, stressing its popularity and the need to get there sooner, as opposed to later.

Marlys Tuftin of Whalan, another organizer of the meal, noted, “It’s good to have a gathering in the middle of winter. People enjoy the community atmosphere.”

Ski event

If one listens hard enough, visitors to Whalan just might hear that old train whistle or imagine seeing its far-off headlight among the candles providing light for skiing on the former railroad bed.

The Root River Trail will have candles along it for three-quarters of a mile. The Minnesota DNR promises “a blazing bonfire at each end of the trail will keep all fingers and toes toasty warm.”

Cross-country skis are available for rent at Cedar Valley Resort in Whalan. Call the resort at (507) 467-9000 for details. A DNR Day Pass for skiing the trail is $6. One can review and purchase the ski permit online and print out what is needed for a permit at home.

Go to http://licenses.dnr.state.mn.us/

Contact Lanesboro Visitors Center for more information at (507) 467-2696 or 1-800-944-2670.