In February, the line of cars stretched from the thrift store parking lot, along the frontage road, onto Highway 10 and caused a traffic backup on Highway 59.
This time, organizers are more prepared, have more volunteers and have a new distribution site, which will make the March 22 food box giveaway from Farmers to Families, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, run much more smoothly, said Misti Rose, a volunteer and project coordinator for the event.
"Traffic was overwhelming," said Rose. "We pretty much shut down traffic for the entire area … unfortunately, all of the poor businesses in the area were blocked in."
In only 90 minutes, the group saw nearly 900 cars during their event in February and gave away 1,300 units of food, which included the donated food box and one gallon of milk, she said.
For their upcoming second food distribution event, Rose said, the group decided to go outside the city to a place that is accustomed to having large crowds.
Soo Pass Ranch, the home of WE Fest, will host the Farmers to Families food box program on March 22, at 5 p.m. Cars will use the east entrance to the grounds to enter and can begin to lining up on the southbound County Road 22 shoulder at 4 p.m. After winding through the property, and receiving a food box, vehicles will exit concert grounds via a right-turn only onto Highway 59 on the west side of the property.
There will also be a drawing for free WE Fest tickets at the event, donated by Matt Mithun, owner of Soo Pass Ranch and a WE Fest producer.
"Being on the Soo Pass Ranch grounds is going to better accommodate the people and we'll be able to get through it more quickly," said Rose. "It will be far more organized."
Rose said Mithun agreed to let his property be used as the food distribution site without hesitation.
Visitors must stay in their vehicles at all times while in line on the grounds. Additionally, organizers ask that drivers clear space in their cars ahead of time and pop their trunks as they approach the volunteers filling the vehicles.
There is no income verification requirement to receive a food box, Rose said.
To meet higher than anticipated demand, she said, "This time we're actually having two (semi-trucks) worth of food."
Military veterans also have the option to receive a food box from the group through VFW and Disabled American Veterans organizations in Detroit Lakes and Frazee. Interested veterans should contact their local chapters to be put on a list for a food box. Homebound veterans are also eligible, Rose said, and volunteers have signed up to deliver those food boxes personally, if they are needed.
The amount of volunteers working the distribution event will more than double for the March 22 event from 28, in February, to 60 volunteers, not including members of the Becker County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol, both of whom will be on hand directing traffic.
Volunteers from the Lake Park Fire Department, Lake Park ALERT first responders, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities Department and The Refuge, in Detroit Lakes, will also assisting with food distribution during the event.
Organizers also said anyone causing a disturbance at the food box giveaway would be removed from the line and encouraged food box recipients to be respectful of surrounding businesses and residences.
Rose said she wants to thank all of the community businesses who have donated products, or services, to the event.
For more information about the Farmers to Families food box distribution event at Soo Pass Ranch on March 22, check out their event page on Facebook.