Pizza and pelicansPublished 10:01am Wednesday, July 25, 2012
By Colleen Thompson, staff intern
Cheryl Page and her husband, Roy Page, in their bright yellow shirts and khaki shorts, helped passengers into a boat via a silver ramp from a dock July 13 at Frank Hall Park in Albert Lea.
Parents and their children, teenagers and the elderly all sat down at 11 evenly spaced tables to enjoy a relaxing float along the Albert Lea Lake. After all 28 guests were safely seated “Capt. Roy” steered the craft away from shore. The Pelican Breeze II headed on another cruise.
Cheryl is the first mate aboard the Pelican Breeze II. She and her husband have been married 35 years and have been proud to call this their job for eight of them.
“Talking to people and interacting is the best part,” Cheryl said.
“I’ve probably done this 100 times, but it’s different every time,” Roy said.
The Pelican Breeze II is a 60-foot pontoon riverboat and has been an attraction since 1996.
The Pelican Breeze Foundation purchased Pelican Breeze I for $25,000. It was sold a few years ago to a private company because of a hole at the bottom of the boat. The boat was repaired and taken to Hawaii, where it was used on the set of “Hawaii Five-O” and now is used as a party boat by the private company.
“I thought Capt. Roy was going to cry that day,” Cheryl said.
Her job as first mate is to narrate the history of the boat itself and the land surrounding it. She explained that with few homes and plant life to spare, Albert Lea Lake serves as a prime location for a scenic boat cruise.
Although the boat is named after water fowl common on the lake, one won’t see very many pelican babies because there are very few females living near the lake. The pelicans are mostly males.
She told passengers how the Chicken Shack and Anderson Dance Hall used to reside along the lake’s shore back in 1925.
“They served chicken, hamburgers and beer,” Cheryl said. “Then they went next door and danced it off.”
She described New York Point and how the Big Island Rendezvous used to take place actually on Big Island and how mounds were found with Native American remains buried underneath. She explained the importance of Interstate 35, its two bridges on the lake and told humorous stories of non-Minnesotans having difficulties traveling.
“I’ve learn more and more from the passengers over the years,” Cheryl said. “Many of them have been around longer and have information to add.”
Toward the end of the cruise, Cheryl introduced the Pelican’s theme song, sung to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song. Every adult cheerfully joined in as they sang the eight well-known verses. It ended with:
“So join us here this afternoon/You’re sure to be pleased/from 40 stranded castaways/here on the Pelican Breeze.”
But unlike the S.S. Minnow on “Gilligan’s Island,” passengers were confident the Pelican Breeze would bring them to shore safely.
In addition to the Sunday public cruise (no reservation needed), this summer the Pelican Breeze is offering themed cruises:
• Pizza cruise: pop and pizza provided by Green Mill (every second and fourth Friday of the month).
• Murder mystery: Green Mill pasta dinner plus one wine/beer along with a classic whodunit case (every first and third Friday of the month).
• Thirsty Thursday: margaritas and professional massages (once a month).
• Sunset cruise: a fillet medallion meal with one wine/beer, compliments of Green Mill.
The Pelican Breeze is always looking for more staff. If being a first mate or captain is of interest to you or you have ideas on cruise themes, please call 507-402-1759 to receive more information.
Facts on Albert Lea Lake:
• It was originally named Fox Lake by Col. Albert Lea.
• Explorer Joseph Nicollet renamed it for Col. Albert Lea to honor the quality of his sketches of the region.
• It is one of the largest natural lakes between Minnetonka Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.
• The deepest part of the lake is 5 1/2 feet.
• The shoreline is 22.77 miles long.
• The lake covers 2,669 acres.