From 1983 to 1992, Perham had the distinction of having the only ‘all girl’ precision cycle drill team to be found anywhere. The original idea came from Rick Tommervik, a local music teacher, who saw the red scooters at a cycle dealership. He mentioned them to Bob Kinlund, a friend who worked at Barrel O’ Fun, and things began to roll.
A drill team was formed, and for 10 years they traveled to parades and local celebrations throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin. The group was composed of girls from seventh through 12th grades and included members from surrounding high schools.
Over the years, the group made 35 to 90 appearances per year, making about 600 in its 10-year life, and was seen by an estimated two to three million people. Slightly over 100 young ladies participated in the program.
The group was originally called the Barrel O’ Fun Chippettes, using the theme from the then-popular TV show “Chips.” The name also reflected a natural tie to the type of product made by Barrel O’ Fun. The members of the drill team wore police-style uniforms and used a military type of discipline in their performances.
After four years, Barrel O’ Fun’s new owners elected to drop the program, but the group continued to operate on its own thanks to the support of several businessmen. Then, the Perham Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of Tom Winjum, stepped forward to sponsor the group and re-named it the “Perham Escort Patrol.”
The group continued to travel throughout the area. It operated as a summer youth program and was used to promote the Perham area, becoming known as “Perham’s Traveling Ambassadors.” Doug Eckes became the Escort Patrol Chairman and he, along with two or three adult supervisors, ran the group through 1992.
The funding necessary to keep the group going was possible only through excellent local support. Groups such as the Perham Lions Club, VFW Post, Jaycees, and Athletic Association contributed money, equipment and manpower while hundreds of local residents gave support through fundraisers, breakfasts and raffles.
Information for this article came an article submitted by Bob Kinlund for the “East Otter Tail History Book, Volume II, 1994.” Lina Belar is the founder and retired director of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.