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Putting yourself on the map - in Ottertail

Vanessa Neels, daughter of Betty's Pantry owner Betty Cordes, stands by the map the restaurant uses to keep track of all the states and countries their customers live in.1 / 3
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The small town of Ottertail, with its population of just 451, is too quaint to make the requirements of most national maps. It's certainly not in the running for one of the worldwide cities of note.

Yet, when it comes to putting yourself on the map, many area residents and an impressive number of visitors have found that Ottertail is the perfect place for just that.

Working from the small town outward, a map created at the local café has unveiled some surprising information...It appears Ottertail may be more of a world hub than most would imagine.

In the past year alone, Betty's Pantry has served customers from 12 other countries, many on the opposite side of the world. The local café also had the distinction this year of serving people from each of the 50 states in the U.S.A.

According to Vanessa Neels, daughter of Betty's Pantry owner Betty Cordes, her mom first came up with the map idea a few years ago. The concept is simple: patrons are encouraged to place a pin on a map of the United States showing where they live.

Neels says they originally wanted to have a world map, but the countries just weren't large enough for people to place their pins on. So, instead, they came up with the idea of having people write the name of their country on a piece of paper and pin it up to the side of the map.

These scattered pieces of paper are one of the most intriguing parts of the map, with some customers writing a line or two in their own language on the scraps of paper. The map is located just inside the restaurant's entrance, drawing the interest of children and adults alike.

"We're a big tourist area," said Neels, reflecting on the impressive amount of pins placed on the map this year. "Some of these people were originally from here and they came back to visit family."

As would be expected, the majority of the pins fall in the tri-state region, with many of the people they represent having cabins in the area.

This is the second year that Betty's Pantry has set up the map, and before this year's vacationing season started, they removed all of last year's pins to create a clean slate.

With the map's annual starting date set at May 19, there's still an opportunity for the restaurant to add a few more countries to their tally this year. So far, Betty's has had twice as many people put up country tags as they had last year.

Specific countries represented this year (sometimes more than once), are: Holland, England, Germany, Norway, Thailand, Malaysia, China, India, Brazil, Mali, Canada, and Mexico.

Betty's Pantry is located on Main Street in the old part of Ottertail city. Betty Cordes has owned the restaurant for the past 14 years, expanding it to its current seating capacity of 81 people.