Galaxy maintains charm of classic Minnesota vacation spot
Galaxy Resort proprietors Ron and JoAnn Bina are approaching their 30th year milestone as owners of a family-owned waterfront resort -- a Star Lake mainstay since just after WWII.
In celebration of the resort's longevity, major improvements have been made to the resort's restaurant for a springtime reopening, and the Bina's are rolling out the resort's newly designed Web site.
Galaxy Resort's roots date back to 1945 when Ernie and Luella Pederson of Dent built an 11-cabin lakeside campus for vacationers and anglers eager to try out Star Lake's renowned fishery.
Defying a Minnesota trend toward disappearing family-owned lake resorts, the Binas' aim is to continue the tradition of humble service to a loyal clientele as well as keep pricing fair in these days of economic strife.
From the olden days of collective camp meals -- resort patrons summoned by a bell Luella Pederson rang from her porch, a bell that still hangs today -- and the days where cleaning fish for cabin guests was a standard service, the lineage of Galaxy Resort owners continues with the Bina family as they usher the resort into the next decade of the 21st century.
Modest but significant changes are being made to keep the resort competitive, such as afternoon bar and food service on the lake deck, a new look to the dining room that celebrates Galaxy Resort's history with nostalgic black and white prints, and a new Web site that reaches out to vacationers looking for affordability, quality and the character of the classic Minnesota lake resort.
The restaurant re-opened for the season on April 24 and the cabins are rented beginning May 9 for Minnesota Opening Fishing.
Nostalgia rings at Galaxy
A melting sunset drips pallets of color onto a mirrored lake, cuing a chorus of crickets, then a fleet of firefly lanterns. Darkness lingers in the still of a mid-summer night.
Hours pass until a dewy twilight emerges and a hopeful angler guides the saw of a 10-horse motor, cutting into a foggy calm, headed to the Big Lake just before sunup.
Star Lake life: Unchanged.
It's the simple beauty of Star Lake's North Arm that romanced Ernie and Luella Pederson back in 1945.
Ernie worked at Dent's Wilcox Lumber yard before he opened a hardware store in town. For him, the means and connections were ripe when it came time to build a resort campus on lakeside land for the new family business.
Ted Hahn dug the basement out with a horse and a scoop for what would become a discrete beer pub.
He used earth from the steep incline to fill the swampy bog below.
With hard work and craftsmanship, one-by-one buildings emerged -- a garage, a storage shed, a dock house, a bunkhouse, 11 "modern" cabins and the all-important fish-cleaning house where Pederson offspring filleted fish for guests.
The Pederson family of six resided in the modest three-bedroom house built overhead the pub. The kitchen accommodated Luella for the three-squares daily she served to Galaxy Resort guests.
Luella would ring a large bell affixed to the side of the home, a bell that echoed across the bay and beyond -- the signal of mealtime.
Retreating from lake play or rising from vacation naps, guests would shuffle up to the large dining area just off the family's kitchen to crack bread with fellow cabin folk.
In winter, when Ernie's Resort went dormant, the dining room transformed into the Pederson living room with furniture hauled from a cabin.
Eventually, it came time for the Pedersons to add onto the Pub -- a long wing that would become the Ernie's Resort lakeside restaurant.
Come 1966 upon the passing of both Luella and Ernie, the Pederson family surrendered their beloved resort to what would become a respectable lineage of Ernie's-turned-Galaxy Resort owners.
Through and through, the camp mealtime tradition continued.
Following the Wicklands, Bornemeiers, Swanns and Gumphreys, the Bina family from Chicago took over operations in 1980. Save for the destruction of cabin 10 near the lake, the resort had remained mostly the same from Ernie and Luella's original vision.
North Dakota/Minnesota natives Ron and JoAnn Bina and their two girls Zaundra and Tonya welcomed their return to a Minnesota lifestyle.
JoAnn quickly fell into her multi-faceted role -- "from cook to bottle washer." Kitchen functions, inventory, cabin reservations and the resort's overall welcome wagon all came under her charge.
Ron, or "Jack of All Trades," assumed everything from plumbing, electrician work and bartending, to accounting and grounds maintenance. Even so, he always found time for a water-ski pull around the bay.
Ernie's eldest son Bruce Pederson grew integral to Galaxy operations for more than two decades, fulfilling the duties of boats inspector, dock serviceman and head grounds keeper.
In winter, hills absorbing the restaurant became ideal for sledding, and the swimming area became an ice-skating rink cleared by Ron and his trusty tractor, the one he endearingly called "Mrs. Ferguson."
Mrs. Ferguson would later haul sand to the beach along Galaxy's shore. The dock house was relocated to free up a commanding Star Lake view for Galaxy's diners.
Now broasted chicken and the view summon those diners more than the foregone ring of Luella's bell.
A nostalgic ornament on the side of the restaurant, it still rings, a reminder of Galaxy history and tradition.
With each passing year, the Bina family grows more and more fond of this place, a Star Lake gathering spot where others make the endeavor possible -- through camaraderie and loyalty, good times and, certainly, hearty appetites.
Star Lake life: Unchanged.
Editor's note: The writer, Zaundra Bina is the daughter of Galaxy Resort owners Ron and JoAnn Bina.
The Galaxy Resort Web site has recently been re-launched. The site is www.galaxyresort.com/new/.