Perham 2020: The year of COVID-19

In a roller-coaster year, Perham has pulled together as a community to survive the harsh year

A man wears a paper mask while coming out of Ace Hardware in Perham on Monday, July 27. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)

2020 has been a roller-coaster of a year for both Perham and the world. Over the course of the year, lockdown signs read “Perham Strong” popped up all over town with a sentiment that has proven to be true this year.

During the pandemic, many small businesses across the country and state of Minnesota have had to permanently shut their doors in 2020. But business closings did not grab headlines in the Perham Focus. While many events were altered or postponed because of COVID-19, the year ended with some hope and the arrival of a vaccine.


2020 in Perham started out on a high note with Bettie Ann Cogger being the first baby of the decade being born at 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 1 at Perham Health.

There was the birth of a news business as Mark’s Home and More opened up in the old Shopko building filling the void felt by the closing of Shopko.


Bettie Ann Cogger, Perham Health's first baby of 2020, born Jan. 1, 2020, at 3:15 a.m. to Jessica and Sean Cogger. (RosaLin Alcoser / FOCUS)


It was a warm day in February for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge , which was Otter Tail Couty's first time hosting a Special Olympics polar plunge, with 199 participants from the area including Perham residents.

Dan Mattfeld of the Biggun's Purple Plungers does a war cry after emerging from the ice water Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Special Olympics Polar Plunge on Otter Tail Lake. (RosaLin Alcoser / FOCUS)

Perham’s boys basketball coach Dave Cresap became one of Minnesota’s seven active coaches to reach 600 wins and Perham’s VFW Post 420 celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Perham head coach Dave Cresap coaches on the sidelines of the Class AA Basketball Tournament at the Target Center during the 2018-19 basketball season. (Jason Groth / Perham Focus)


Schools, businesses, and the miracle of everyday life came to a screeching halt as the statewide shutdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus began. March 17 was the last normal day for most and set the tone for the rest of the year.


COVID-19 has caused students to spend time in distance learning, had businesses open and close their doors, prevented people from being able to gather and caused life as the world knew it to be turned upside down.

March ended on a shocking note for Perham when on March 30, Derek Sweere was arrested for the killing of 34-year-old Brandon Snyder ; which was the first murder case within the Perham city limits in more than 30 years.

Perham Police Department and Crime Scene Team from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) blocked off part of the 600 block of First Avenue South, near the old Perham High School on Tuesday, March 31. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


In the midst of the lockdown, window visits at Perham’s nursing homes started, Perham Health performed 90 COVID-19 tests and churches celebrated Easter Sunday virtually. Perham windows started to fill with hearts of hope, and local business along with the help of Perham’s Economic Development Administration started the Starfish Fund to help area business feeling the effects of the shutdown.

The Perham Area Community Center will open its doors on June 10 after being closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The PACC will open at 6 a.m. as part of the first phase of opening for gyms and fitness centers during the third phase of Stay Safe Minnesota. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


The state-ordered lockdown was over but life still has not returned to normal while restrictions were still in place. Perham High School’s Class of 2020 graduated at a drive-in ceremony and parade.


Seniors Chase Benke, left, Titus Myckee, Malie Graff, Jack Anderson and Dannika George gather one last time in the Perham High School parking lot before the graduation ceremony began. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


Otter Tail County reported its first COVID-19 death.

Perham’s police chief of 10 years, Jason Hoaby resigned to return to school.

Turtle Fest was held in a scaled-back and modified version of the festival. Normal events such as the street dance, parade and famous turtle races were not held; a fireworks display was put on in place of the parade.

The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce, unable to hold turtle races in Turtle Race Park, started the Race to Find the Turtle event. Hiding painted rocks, representing the turtles, in local businesses for people to find as they shopped local each Wednesday.


2020 COVID Isolation Turtles are available every Wednesday in Perham's Turtle Race park, next to City Hall, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. all summer long. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


James Gritz was hired to fill the position of Perham’s chief of police.

St. Henry's Catholic Church's Forever Remembered Garden was vandalized over the Fourth of July weekend. Security footage at the church did not work that night and no suspect was identified.

A tornado with 100 per mile hour winds swept across the Otter Tail County on July 8. While the major storm damage occurred near Dalton, the Ottertail and Battle Lake areas saw major damage with the destruction of Lakeside RV park near Ottertail.

Many area residence and visitors showed up to watch the fireworks display put on at the East Otter Tail County Fairgrounds in Perham on July 4. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)



Dan Bucholz and Betsy Roder advanced from a field of six candidates in the primary as the candidates to vie for District 1 seat on the Otter Tail County Commission.

Detroit Lake natives Dr. Max Disse joined the Sandford Perham Health staff as a dermatologist.

A car was consumed in a fire in the Central Market parking lot on Aug. 29.

A car in the Central Market parking lot in Perham was completely engulfed by a fire on Saturday, Aug. 29. According to the Perham Police report, the call to emergency services was made at 10:53 a.m. Perham Fire responded to the scene. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Hilden)


Perham students returned to school in cohorts with in-person, hybrid and distance learning plans all in place. The year started with kindergarten through sixth grade all in person and seventh through 12 grade in hybrid learning.

After five months of delays due to COVID-19, the Chamber Choice Awards finally took place at The Cactus on Sept. 24. The awards were originally scheduled to take place in May.


Perham Yellowjacket Noah Rooney announced his commitment to play baseball for the University of Minnesota .

Perham High School held Homecoming with the coronation of the 2020 Homecoming Court.

Noah Rooney, left, and Crisavy Seeman were crowned the Perham High School 2020 Homecoming king and queen on Friday Sept. 25. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


Perham’s Public Library using grant money awarded to the Viking Library System introduced memory loss resources and Perham saw a white Halloween with an early snowfall.

Snow-covered jack-o'-lanterns on the steps of the Coldwell Banker building in Perham while pre-Halloween snow falls on Tuesday, Oct. 20. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


The 2020 general election took place with Perham, Perham Township, and Pine Lake Township seeing high voter turnout rates both in-person and absentee. Dan Buchholz was the winner in the District 1 county commission race to replace the retiring Doug Huebsch.

Coaching legend Charlie Fleck, who built the Perham Yellowjackets into a gymnastics powerhouse, died at age 70 .

While Perham's polling place at City Hall was busiest in the morning hours, voters still lined up outside as they waited for their turn to go inside and vote. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)


Normal Christmas events were not held this season due to the pandemic. Much like Easter, Christmas services were held in different ways than usual with in-person, online, broadcast, and drive-by services all taking place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Otter Tail County would close out the year with more than 4,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. But closing out 2020, the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine started to be administered at Perham Health with local front-line health care workers first in line.

Dr. Mark Paulson, Perham Health, was one of the first frontline workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Perham Health. (contributed)

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