June 9: Elko Drive-In Theater, Elko New Market MN

Cars watching a movie at night

photo from the Elko Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 160 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Today I paid the price for visiting Bellevue NE out of order. It took just over five hours of interstate highway driving to reach the Elko Drive-In Theater in the city of Elko New Market MN.

Like the Falconwood in Bellevue, the Elko is a 21st century drive-in grafted onto an existing attraction. But instead of a park, the Elko was added to an existing raceway, and it’s been around another couple of years, since 2014.

The Minnesota Star Tribune documented the genesis of the Elko early that year. The speedway owner, Tom Ryan, purchased the screen from Cottage Grove’s Cottage View Drive-In, which had closed at the end of the 2012 season. (The 116-foot-by-46-foot screen came apart in pieces that are 12 inches wide and 20 feet high.) Ryan told the Star Tribune that he thought it was a natural fit to supplement the speedway. “We have the room out there, and we think it’s a good business,” he said.

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press wrote at the time that the drive-in hadn’t been formally named yet. “We’re kicking around a few things,” Ryan told them. “Basically, it’ll be the Drive-in Theater at the Elko Speedway.” That may be why a few places, such as the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce, call it the Champions Drive-In Theater. The drive-in’s Facebook page calls it the Elko; its web site calls it the Elko!, with exclamation point.

I saw the Guardians of the Galaxy for the seventh time tonight. Then again, the Elko serves beer and cheese curds at the concession stand, so it evens out.

Miles Today / Total:  361 / 21001 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 / 76

Nearby Restaurant: If you want something to eat here, you’d better head over to the Firehouse Grille. I got here too late for lunch, but not too late for happy hour. Plus, it was all you can eat rib night. Properly motivated, and lubricated by happy hour beverages, I can eat a lot of ribs.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There really aren’t any hotels in Elko New Market, so I had to drive up to Lakeville, just seven miles away. I got a pretty good deal at the Quality Inn there. My room had a mini-fridge and microwave, and there were warm eggs at breakfast. Sometimes enough is all you need.

Only in Elko New Market: Just up the road in Lakeville, you might notice Hot Sam’s Antiques, or as Roadside America calls it, ten wooded acres of big, weird junk. “It’s part photo park, theme park, artist’s haven, junkyard, antique shop. It is undeniably unique,” wrote the Minnesota Prairie Roots blog. “Hot Sam’s is like stepping into the pages of an I Spy book.”

Next stop: Starlite Drive-In, Litchfield MN.