Photo by Chad Koenen
A reunion will be held for the Leaf Lakes area during the Henning Festival in July.

By Chad Koenen


Fifty years ago, Leaf Lakes was the hub of activity throughout Otter Tail County. There were dances, swimming lessons, ice cream by the scoop, boating and of course plenty of time to converse over an adult beverage or two. Some of the biggest musical acts of the day stopped by the Leaf Lakes Ballroom to perform, some of which still live in Henning and Ottertail folklore today. 

Many of the resorts have since disappeared and the hub of activity at the Leaf Lakes Ballroom no longer stands in-between West and Middle Leaf Lakes, but the memories remain in those who were there to experience the lively atmosphere of the day.

Several local residents are hoping to provide a reunion of sorts for those who identify themselves as from the Leaf Lakes area. A Leaf Lakes reunion will be held during the Henning Festival weekend, likely July 10-12, 2022.

As many of the great ideas start, the concept of a Leaf Lakes reunion began with an off-the-cuff comment between Jim Dilly and Jeff Bondy as the two discussed their 55th high school reunion. 

“We were classmates for 12 years and I just stopped over to see him back in May and he said are you coming home for the reunion,” said Bondy who explained he wasn’t planning on coming back for their high school reunion. “He said no, no not that one the Leaf Lakes reunion. He said what do you think of a Leaf Lakes reunion.”

The idea stuck with Bondy who then called his former classmate back to make sure he was serious about having a Leaf Lakes reunion. When Dilly asked what he thought, Bondy agreed that the idea of a reunion of the once bustling area of Leaf Lakes was more than overdue. The two said there is no definition of what a Leaf Lakes person should be and the reunion is open to anyone who wants to catch up with other people who attended events, and even just went swimming at the beach, over the years. 

“Everyone else I’ve talked to thinks it’s a great idea,” said Bondy. “Let’s just leave it wide open and let who wants to come can come.”

Dilly said the idea of a Leaf Lakes reunion was something he had thought about for a number of years. Growing up he remembers spending his summers at the different Leaf Lakes with friends and family members.

“We had all been raised down on the Leaf Lakes as kids. The Markusons, Belmonts, us and the Floms as kids. You would go around the access to Bondy’s Resort,” said Dilly. “I thought it would be fun if we could all get together so I just brought it up to him.”

Bondy’s parents owned the Leaf Lakes Ballroom for a number of years, which was a hub of activity throughout the Henning area each summer. The ballroom has since been torn down, but the memories and stories of the days at Leaf Lakes still lives on today.

“We would always get involved with the kids on Middle Leaf and we would always end up swimming together and playing ball and whatever as kids,” said Dilly. 

Bondy said there will not be any formal activities throughout the weekend and there will be no RSVP needed. The weekend is aimed to be a fun weekend of reminiscing and catching up with long lost friends. The tentative schedule includes a reunion on Friday night at the Woodshed Bar and Grill in Ottertail at 7 p.m. and at Oakwood Supper Club in rural Henning on Saturday. The events are set for the weekend of the Henning Festival.