How Fair Hills Resort is still providing the best summers ever, and doing so for over 100 years.
Right in the thick of lakes country sits a resort with over a century of operation, and just three years short of a century of operation within the same family. Generations of families have made Fair Hills Resort their summer home away from home, including the owners of the resort.
Fair Hills Resort reached a special milestone in 2006, becoming a Minnesota Century Resort. Its story begins in 1902 with the purchase of land on the north shore of Pelican Lake by Frank and George Ashelman. The resort officially opened in 1906. Current resort Creative Director Emily Meyers shared that World War I is thought to be the main reason why the Ashelman brothers sold the resort a few years later in 1918, but soon after in 1926, the Kaldahl Schupp family began their generational ownership and operation, and continue to this day.
Edwin and Chester Kaldahl were the first and second-generation owners, followed by Dave Kahldahl, who took over the operation of the resort in the 1950s. Currently, the resort is owned and operated by fourth-generation resorters Dan and Beth Kaldahl Schupp and Lisa Kaldahl.
A few changes have been made in the 100 years of operation, one being the resort expansion from its original site to now occupying 1,100 feet of lakeshore on 40 acres of land on the north shore of Pelican Lake.
The lodging has seen growth as well, with over 100 cabins throughout the hills of the property. In addition to slowly growing the size of the resort, there have been several additions to the Fair Hills family of properties.
In 1976, they purchased Five Lakes Resort in Frazee, MN, which they refer to as their “hidden gem.” The resort is comprised of 10 cabins on private Five Lake, creating a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Five Lakes Resort allows guests to completely disconnect from their busy day-to-day and oftentimes is a place that offers space to reconnect with family, friends, and nature.
Another fun addition to Fair Hills came in 1990 with the purchase of the beloved 55-foot pontoon boat—The Big Pelican, which was purchased from Lord Fletchers in Lake Minnetonka. The Fair Hills team offers cruises around Pelican Lake, taking guests on a beautiful tour of the lakeside.
Three years later, in 1993, the resort unveiled another gem inside the family of properties, Wildflower Golf Course. This is an 18-hole course across the road from Fair Hills, with breathtaking, rolling landscapes and an impressive yet adaptable challenge at each hole.
One of the more recent additions to the resort is over at their Five Lakes property. In 2012, the Barn opened, offering a gorgeous lakeside wedding and event venue.
Maybe you’ve heard about the sport, maybe not. Brush up on the whos and whats of pickleball and learn where you can play in the Fargo-Moorhead area in our February issue of Fargo Monthly,, ‘What’s Your Sport?’
But, the newest and one of the most engaging add-ons to the resort comes at no better time. Pickleball has recently taken the resort, and the nation, by storm. So much so, Fair Hills opened six new courts dedicated to the sport last year when it came time to redo some old court surfaces. The resort is excited to bring official pickleball to their property’s long list of “Things to Do at Fair Hills!”
According to Emily, the love of pickleball has seen a fairly steady increase at the resort, concurrent with the rising trend of the sport in the FM community. It was no question when it came to the decision of adding six new courts, as the sport is the perfect activity for Fair Hills guests.
“We are always working to balance the trending activities of today with some of the classic elements of the resort that you grew up doing as a kid,” Emily said.
The excitement over the sport doesn’t stop at offering it to guests, the resort has hosted Pickleball tournaments— something that fills a need in the local area.
“…It has been so fun to see all of the courts in play at the resort,” Emily said. “We host weekly pickleball tournaments for guests at the resort and now have started to introduce the Fair Hills Pickleball Tournament and Clinics to the community. Our first event was held over Memorial Day weekend with more to follow throughout the summer.”
Being a staple in the lakes community, and always working to expand that reach, the pickleball tournaments and clinics hosted at Fair Hills Resort are open to the public; meaning you don’t need to be a guest at the resort to attend.
“We also want people to have the opportunity to experience the magic of Fair Hills Resort so we are hosting tournaments when we have cabin availability for players to stay in if they choose,” Emily explained.
Two certified pickleball professionals led the Memorial Day Weekend Tournament, dubbed the “Stay and Play Your Way Weekend,” as attendees were welcomed to stay as well as participate in the other activities going on that weekend like a yoga retreat and special rates at the Wildflower Golf Course.
The professionals, Paul Murray and Paul Huch, helped run the tournament and provided tips, tricks, and professional insight to enhance the athletes’ pickleball game. In addition to the tournament, the duo also hosted skill-focused clinics throughout the weekend.
Meet Emily Creative Director and lifelong guest at Fair Hills Resort!
“I am the creative director at Fair Hills Resort, running all of our content, social media, ads, and other ways to introduce ourselves to the community and stay connected to our guests. I graduated from the University of St. Thomas and have been officially working at Fair Hills since 2009, although as the fifth generation of my family to be working here, I have definitely worked my way up, doing everything from scooping ice cream as a kid to waiting tables and performing in the Hootenanny. In 2020, I also took the helm as the Director of Operations at Wildflower Golf Course.”
Learn about the Pickleball Professionals!
“Paul Murray grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota. As a tennis player, he took second in the Don Bosco conference, played at Marquette University, and was the director of tennis at Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod. His philosophy of putting the fun in fundamentals and the love of doubles strategies and tactics made his transition to pickleball coach a perfect fit. He is presently the director of pickleball at Wayzata County Club and is both PPR and PCI-certified. Whether you are brand new to the game, or trying to perfect your third shot drop, Paul has the experience to help you improve your pickleball game every step of the way.”
“Paul Huch was our other professional for the weekend. Paul grew up in Hopkins, Minnesota, and has been the head tennis and pickleball pro at the Weekapaug Tennis Club since 2010. He has coached at the collegiate level at Meredith College, Connecticut College, and Macalester College. He shares his fiery competitive spirit and knowledge of the game to help raise your pickleball game to the next level!” – Emily Meyers.
If all of this pickleball tourney talk has you itching to grab your equipment and head out, don’t worry—Fair Hills Resort will be hosting a second pickleball tournament in mid-August! And, if you need to brush up on your skills for the event, book a stay at the resort to enjoy the brand-new courts… and a few other perks!
Remember that long list of “Things to Do at Fair Hills?” Pickleball is just the start of it.
“We offer a little bit of everything at Fair Hills, so you can be as busy or relaxed as you’d like to be,” Emily said. “The list of amenities that are free for guests to use includes basketball, sand volleyball, a frisbee golf course, our executive 9-hole golf course, 4 tennis courts, 6 pickleball courts, foosball, kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and boards, sailboats, swimming pool and jacuzzi access, and the list goes on!”
Summer vacation doesn’t have to mean total relaxation for those who still want adventure— the resort offers lessons in a variety of activities as well, including waterskiing, sailing, swimming, tennis, golf, and pickleball during the Family Season throughout the summer.
Before we get ahead of ourselves in all of the classic summer resorts available during Fair Hill’s Family Season—what is Family Season? At any given point from the third week in June through the third week in August, you will see people of all ages roaming through the resort, taking part in so many different functions. During these crucial summertime weeks, guests are visiting during the resort’s Family Season. Outside of those weeks though, the property stays busy.
Being that we’re from a region that only gives us so much time in the sun, you’ll find the Fair Hills grounds are humming with life during the springtime, being occupied with corporate events and retreats and weddings before the start of Family Season.
For the kiddos, there are three daily supervised activities for kids ages 4-9. Kids can take part in sandcastle-building contests, torpedo rides, treasure hunts, lemonade stands, and capture the flag to name a few. Adults can enjoy tennis, golf, and pickleball mixers. Guests can also check out the daily fitness classes including daily morning walks, water aerobics, yoga, or PiYo (a blend of Pilates and Yoga). Get creative and try out one of the art classes in ceramics, and head to evening activities ranging from Trivia, Bingo, Closest to the Pin Contests, and more! During the Family Season, the public is welcome to attend multiple events hosted at the resort, like the Hootenanny & Smorgasbord on Tuesday nights beginning after Father’s Day. At this weekly tradition, the staff put together a musical show for the guests to enjoy. This 58-year-old event supports the resort’s musical history. The evening looks like this:
- 5 to 6 p.m.: Embark on an hour-long cruise of Pelican Lake— ticket includes one beverage on the boat.
- 6 to 7 p.m.: Eat Smorgasbord dinner in the dining room
- 8 to 9:30 p.m.: Enjoy the Hootenanny Show
While taking a cruise around Pelican Lake is a lakes lover’s dream, the 55-foot Big Pelican Pontoon boat is a sight for itself. Enjoy dinner and drinks after the cruise, and end the night with some entertainment!
If you’d rather get out and do something active, hit 18 holes at Wildflower Golf Course, both a beauty to look at and to play! Check out these seven things you didn’t know about Fair Hills’ own 18 holes!
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Wildflower Golf Course
1. Wildflower is an absolutely beautiful course.
The light is magical on the course and the views are spectacular. You almost feel like you are back in time and out on the prairie. Depending on where you’re at on the course, you’ll find yourself under a canopy of oaks, putting next to an abandoned farmhouse, or gazing out over the prairie. Wildflower was designed as a prairie links style course by Joel Goldstrand and also features beautiful oak savannahs. The primary goal was to blend these two landscapes together to create a unique and beautiful course to play.
2. The driving range is wonderful.
You never have to hit off mats and can drive the ball over 350 yards.
3. Monthly tournaments
Wildflower is hosting monthly tournaments open to the public that are a great time for all! They began hosting tournaments again in 2021 and have had great turnouts.
4. Host private events at the course or book group outings.
The staff will take fantastic care of you while you are here. Additional options for food and other entertainment can be arranged across the street at Fair Hills Resort.
5. A new challenge every time
Given the geography and location, Wildflower can play differently each time you play it. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to use all the clubs in your bag. You also get a true sense you are in lakes country while playing the course, which allows you to take in views of Pelican Lake, Lake Eunice, and Lake Maud while playing the course.
6. Homemade donuts and rolls
On the weekends there are homemade donuts and rolls from Fair Hills Resort for sale in the pro shop. You don’t even have to be a golfer to stop in and enjoy those treats.
7. Prairie house #2
The prairie house on #2 has long been one of the most memorable vistas on the course. It is a remnant of one of the five homesteads that were built on the land back in the day. Golfers love the nostalgia for the past that it evokes on the course.
In an increasingly tech-based world, so many of our ways of communicating or interacting with each other are done in more convenient but less personal ways. At Fair Hills, we strive to make it easy for everyone to come together and take the time to reconnect in person. To make it easy and enjoyable for kids and parents and grandparents to try new things or take part in family traditions.”– Emily Meyers
You don’t have to be a guest to play this course—book your tee time today at wildflowergolfcourse.com!
Of course, all of these activities create an inviting and active summer vacation experience, but what really draws generation after generation of families back to the resort is the captivating nostalgia that fills the hills of the resort’s country and lakeside.
“Fair Hills is all about a classic Minnesota summer experience,” Emily said.
Fair Hills Resort is one of a dwindling number of resorts in Minnesota that still operates on the all-inclusive model. The resort serves three meals a day in their dining room where guests can come together with their families at meal time. They also participate in and offer longstanding traditions like the Hootenanny that the staff has performed for the past 57 years. Mondays include a marching band that leads guests to the picnic lunch. There is a bell that rings to call the start of activities and meals. The resort is seeped in its beautiful culture and traditions and has also transitioned with the expansions and upgrades to offer a contemporary experience.
“I think there is a nostalgia and a connection to the past that you can share with future generations that permeates everyone’s experience at the resort,” Emily said. “Fair Hills offers a place where you can still have the same shared experiences in the same location that your parents and grandparents enjoyed them. Perhaps you carry on grandma’s tradition as the champion of ‘Closest to the Pin’ for the week, or maybe you and your dad get on the stage to perform a duet or a dance routine that you have been working on all winter.”
Fair Hills Resorts celebrates the opportunity to come together in a place where you can meet new people from all over the world, as well as enjoy personal time spent with loved ones. For generations over, this can be seen.
These repeat vacationers are part of what makes Fair Hills so special, and what allows special bonds to be created. Be that between guests, between staff, and even between the staff and those families they work with every day. Families from South Korea, Germany, England, and all over the United States have found their summertime second homes at Fair Hills. In addition to international families staying there, they employ a lot of international workers who love to spend their summers at the resort.
Between endless family-focused activities and the special moments created during and in between, Fair Hills Resort staff has proven for over 100 years that they truly care about their guests—as they are the people who wish them a ‘good morning’ at breakfast and a ‘good night’ after dinner, and maybe an occasional ‘afternoon’ from the beachside.
“Everyone who is willing to own and operate a resort is working hard to create something special for their guests. You have to care about the people who are vacationing with you a whole lot in order to do this job,” Emily said. “What makes me the most proud is the way that we have managed to keep the balance between tradition and innovation. How we have been able to keep the heart of the place beating and bringing families back generation after generation. There is something pretty special when you hear from kids who haven’t been back to see us for a few years, say that as soon as they have kids of their own, they will be back.”
We could share all of the amenities, the activities, the recalled memories, and more—but truly, Fair Hills Resort is one you have to experience for yourself. So, go!