Summertime means a lot of great things: baseball, cookouts, camping, water parks … Outdoor activities have become a staple of the season, and for good reason. But while traditional favorites can be a lot of fun, sometimes they get a little … repetitive. How many grilled hot dogs do you really want?
If you’re looking for some extreme fun during these hot summer days, check out these businesses across southern Minnesota that offer pastimes of a different sort. And check the next edition of Scene for part two.
Tommyguns Paint Wars
Picture this: You and your friends are wandering through the woods outside of New Ulm, laughing, joking and having a good time when suddenly, out of nowhere, they attack – a swarm of enemies clad head-to-toe in camouflage and protective gear, chasing, yelling, shooting. It’s an ambush, and you’re totally surrounded. You swing your weapon around, desperately trying to protect yourself, but it’s too late — something small and heavy thuds against your chest. You look down, spying a bright splash of green, and you realize to your dismay that you’ve been hit … by a paintball.
At Tommyguns Paint Wars, adventurous souls have the opportunity to pit their survival skills against their enemies in a flesh-and-paint war that can rage across 16 acres. The whole wild zone is owned and operated by Thomas Strenge, who started it in 2010 after writing up the idea for a business class during his time at South Central College. (Conveniently, he also used his fledgling business as his official internship.) Strenge had experience playing paintball in high school and college, even playing in tournaments (though he admitted he and his teammates “weren’t that great”), and he wanted to be able to offer the sport to other paintball enthusiasts in the area.
“Finding land in the right location was the biggest thing,” he said. “The property we found wasn’t very far from where I grew up. We started with a small shed… [Eventually], we were out of room so we built the shop we’re in now.”
Strenge has seven paintball fields and can run games on all of them at the same time. Fields can be reserved, or people can just show up for open play Sundays. Strenge says a typical game is about 25 minutes long, with guests usually playing 6-10 games per visit. There’s no time limit, just a $45 cost that includes 500 paintballs per person, paint guns and protective wear, and all-day admission. More paintballs are available to purchase for extremely enthusiastic players. Season passes are also available.
Strenge started with 30 guns available for rent. After three weeks, he had to increase to 70 guns. Now, he has 110. Needless to say, the sport is pretty popular, and he has more customers every year. His season tends to run from April to October, and he said he’s busiest during “wedding season”: April-June. That’s because a lot of his customers come for bachelor and bachelorette parties. (The fact that he allows players to bring their own alcohol is probably an incentive.)
Strenge said most of his customers are male, with only about 10 percent female participation. But the women who do come out, he added, have no problems holding their own.
“The girls that do play are usually just fine,” he said. “There’s an athletic side to it, but so much of it is your gun skills, marker skills… The gun’s a great equalizer.”
And as for those guns… Strenge warns that getting shot feels like “getting hit by a wet towel.” That’s one of the reasons players must be at least 12 to participate.
Want to start your own war? Visit tommygunspaintwars.com for more info.
Kerfoot Canopy Tours
You trail along behind your guide, winding your way through the quiet trees. Leaves crunch underfoot as you approach a massive spiral staircase in the middle of the woods. You climb higher and higher, your heart starting to pump excitedly as a swaying suspension bridge comes into view. Sucking in a deep breath, you take one hesitant step onto it, then another, then another, somehow crossing the 170 feet that span between the two points. But your adrenaline adventure isn’t over yet, because you haven’t reached the Red Tail line — a 1,200-foot zip line that will send you hurtling through space over beautiful Minnesota forest.
It’s all part of Kerfoot Canopy Tours, an outdoor adventure land situated just outside of Henderson. The aerial tour is more than a mile in length, with 14 zip lines, the suspension bridge and kayaking down the Minnesota River for those who want it. The whole experience takes about two and a half hours.
Kerfoot Canopy Tours was started by Lee and Eva Kerfoot. Lee Kerfoot points back to his time growing up on the Gunflint Trail by the Boundary Waters as to where he found his love for the outdoors. In 2012, his father start the first canopy zip line tour in Minnesota, and then Kerfoot decided to own his own canopy tour business in June 2013.
“The big thing was to just encourage people to get outdoors, to push their boundaries, to give them an adventure,” he said.
While most people probably think about ziplining on sunny, warm days, Kerfoot is actually one of the few zipline tour operators in the region who stays open all year round.
“There’s a place in Wisconsin that does it year-round, so I said, ‘Why not?’” he remembered. “What’s beautiful about this piece of land is that in the winter, it’s a totally different experience.”
Kerfoot said the biggest challenge is making people aware of the fact that there’s “top-shelf” ziplining in Henderson, Minnesota.
“You have this perception of ziplining across the world, and there’s a lot of amazing courses, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that this is really a top-shelf experience,” he said, pointing out that his course offers nearly double the number of zips compared to any other course in Minnesota. “It’s really a fun thing to do. It’s fun to see people who come in for different reasons, and they just have an amazing experience.”
Tommyguns Paint Wars
Address: 48306 235th St in New Ulm
Kerfoot Canopy Tours
Address: 30200 Scenic Byway Rd in Henderson
By Grace Webb