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Dragon boat teams are noted for their bright colors but this year unique names are popping up. Shown above oarsman Gary Pederson, right, shows team "Iraq Was Wack" how to hold their paddle. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival: Creative names boost morale

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Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival: Creative names boost morale
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

William Shakespeare once wrote, "What's in a name?" In the case of the 77 teams participating in the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, a name can signify pride and purpose.

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A name can tell competitors and supporters what a team stands for. It can symbolize a team's conviction and also boost morale.

In Bemidji's festival, teams represent a variety of different groups - businesses, clubs, organizations and families - which has resulted in a long list of unique team names.

Some participants consider team pride when deciding on a name, as was the case of the Invincible Dragons, the Duluth Boat Club's team. Others choose a name based on the sponsorship of a business or organization, while some take naming to a higher level of creativity.

Veteran team Revenge of the Water Soaked Nerds will be racing its sixth year on the tranquil waters of Lake Bemidji.

Comprised of employees of Widseth Smith Nolting, the team includes employees from offices in Brainerd, Alexandria and Grand Forks.

"It's a silly name, I know," said team manager Melissa Bock.

Bock said the name originated from the business' initials, W.S.N., which eventually transpired into the team name, Water Soaked Nerds.

"We used it the first time in 2009," Bock said. "A year later we became Revenge of the Water Soaked Nerds."

Bock said their full name this year is Revenge of the Water Soaked Nerds-Nerds in Paradise.

"We kind of went with the 'Revenge of the Nerds' movie thing," Bock added.

Since they first adopted their name, the Nerds have gotten into the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival by handing out Nerds candies and other sweets at the festival.

"It's fun to get into it. Our team always looks forward to the Dragon Boat Festival," Bock said.

The Nerds aren't the only team getting into the theme of a crazy name. The Mix'd Nuts from RP Broadcasting Inc. have their own way of showing team spirit.

"We started the name so we could promote the Mix 103.7 station," said Promotions Director Tracy Bailey. "The 'nuts' part of it comes from the 'Beer Nuts' logo."

Team members have since run with the idea, making nut necklaces out of plastic walnuts and peanuts.

"It's been fun," Bailey said. "Our employees and team members are a little crazy sometimes."

A name, when not arousing team spirit or promoting a business, can at times simply be a statement, a claim shared by a team's members.

Jake Stoutenburgh, a realtor with ERA Pederson & Assoc. Realty, will be sponsoring a new dragon boat racing team this year called Iraq was Wack.

At first glance, the name seems curious, disconnected from other dragon boat race team names.

To Stoutenburgh however, the name makes complete sense.

"The majority of folks on our team are Iraq war veterans," he said. "This is a funny way of saying we're war vets."

Team manager and Veterans Employment Representative Brian Ophus said he organized a group of men who have been deployed to Iraq and their spouses.

"It seemed like a way to put a comical note to an experience that wasn't fun," Ophus said.

Twenty members will be rowing for "Iraq was Wack" on Saturday.

"We were pretty much family when we went over there," Ophus said. "This is a chance for us to get together and have some fun."

"Plus," he added, "We're hoping to win."

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Pioneer staff reports
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