It’s only a matter of time before the United States opens its border to Canadians, and the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino in northeastern Minnesota is full of anticipation for that day.
COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone on both sides of the Canada-US border, according to Brian Sherburne, enterprise administrator with the border-area destination on the shore of Lake Superior. Normally, the operation attracts a large number of visitors from Thunder Bay, Ont., which is just about an hour away.
He said that “This summer has been better than last summer because Isle Royale has opened back up and a lot of that southern traffic that goes out to the Isle Royale National Park has returned. But we do miss that cross-border traffic.”
Sherburne claims that in a normal year, they attract a large number of visitors, particularly fishermen, who are passing through on their way up to the resorts in Canada, stopping in and spending the night at the lodge on their way back and forth.
Sherburne added that “We also have the people travelling south, and that obviously hasn’t happened. That’s been little harder without having Thunder Bay and surrounding areas having been able to come down like they normally would. We’re hoping the U.S. decides to come out with more positive news versus what they did by extending for another month.”
Sherburne said they had thought the US would open its border on the same day as the Canadian border on Aug. 9. Instead, the US has decided to keep border restrictions in place until at least August 21.
He said that “We are also dealing with staff shortages and that’s been a problem all along the North Shore.”
This, according to Sherburne, is due in part to a lack of international visa workers who often visit the area. He claims that a couple of these people are in the area, but that none of them work at the lodge or casino.
He said that “The service is going to be challenged a little bit because we are not fully staffed as we would like to be, but everyone’s still going to be able to come down and play the slot machines and enjoy the lodging. A lot of people get out of town from Thunder Bay because it’s so close and it’s great to get out of town for a night or two to a place that is less than an hour away. We miss everyone coming down as well.”
People who want to visit soon have been calling, emailing, texting, and posting on social media, according to Sherburne.
He added that “We are so looking forward to the day when we can welcome our Canadian friends back. This is a symbiotic relationship and with all the northern businesses across the southern border of Canada being closed, it’s been a challenge for both sides and we would sure like to see that day when we could return back to normal.”
The casino, dining room, bar, lodging, marina, trading post, local grocery and convenience store, gas station, and Hollow Rock Resort, a small group of lakeside cabins a few kilometers down the road, are all located at the lodge. There is also an RV park with water, sewer, and electrical hookup on the site.
Sherburne says there is a highway construction project going on and the highway is being completely replaced.
He said that “They are moving along quickly so people will see a new road when they come to the U.S. side.”
The RV park is currently filled with the workers from the highway project.