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A funny thing happened on the way to China

The Hermantown Area Chamber of Commerce celebrate the grand opening of the Duluth Airport’s Arrowhead Tap House with a ribbon cutting. From left to right: Tom Werner, executive director of the Duluth International Airport, Michael Reilly, president of Oakwells (the chain which owns the Arrowhead Tap House), Robert Dahl, chairman of the Hermantown Chamber Ambassadors and Nancy Kastelic, president of the Hermantown Chamber. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 6
Terry Larson of Foster, Jacobs and Johnson shares a laugh with Jiann Yang, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)2 / 6
Dressed in a tuxedo, Todd Eckhart “works the room” as he croons “Rat Pack” songs of the ‘60s. Here he dances with Machelle Kendrick, causing her friends to smile with delight. Kendrick is business development and marketing director of the Miller Hill Mall. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)3 / 6
Attired in party dresses, Kate Hnatko and Emma Peterson welcome attendees to join the Vegas party at the airport. Both are sophomores at Hermantown High School. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)4 / 6
Todd Eckart invites Dawn Jones to sit up on the stage while he sings. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)5 / 6
Tom Walchuk is all smiles for the grand opening. Walchuk is the manager of the Arrowhead Tap Room. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)6 / 6

When Duluthian Jiann Yang said goodbye to his wife at the Duluth airport — she was departing to Taiwan — he was expecting to go back home. Instead the UMD electrical engineering professor happened upon a Las Vegas-style party right in the middle of the airport’s second floor. The swing-style crooning of tuxedo-wearing Todd Eckart filled the air. Eckart, an enduring fixture of the Duluth music scene, sang popular ditties of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Behind him, a screen projected scenes from Las Vegas. Lights flashed from party-attendees’ lapels adorned with party favors, replicas of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” signs.

Young women dressed in cocktail dresses smiled and asked visitors, “Are you here for the event?”

The event celebrated the grand opening of the Arrowhead Tap Room, a bar for airport patrons. The Arrowhead is owned by Oakwells, an Orlando, Fla.-based chain of watering holes and news stands serving airports and trains stations.

Oakwells President Michael J. Reilly was at the airport for three separate and concurrent ribbon cuttings for the Duluth Airport’s Arrowhead Tap Room. The Hermantown, Superior Douglas County Area and Duluth Area Chamber all participated with ribbon cuttings.

Tom Werner, executive director of the airport, said Oakwells was the winning bid when the airport was searching for bars to serve airport customers. “They (Oakwells) are a great complement to what we do,” he said.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at