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Documentary captures culture of Bemidji's unique festival

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news Bemidji, 56619
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI - How does a small city in northern Minnesota come to celebrate an ancient Chinese tradition every summer?

One can find out in Lakeland Public Television's documentary, "Paddles Up: The Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival."

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The hour-long film shows behind-the-scenes footage of the planning and execution of Bemidji's Dragon Boat Festival, including the week leading up to the races, on-site recordings of teams and viewers on race day, and interviews of both volunteers and participants in the celebration.

Camera man and director of development for Lakeland Public Television Tom Wild said that filming the documentary was unlike other projects in his six- year repertoire.

"This is different, since it's a specific event," he said.

Because the story of the festival is more linear than the broader programs from Lakeland, "The shots are more important," said Wild, "The story is itself, and you've just got to show it."

Jeff Hanks, production manager at Lakeland Public Television, explained.

"We wanted to create a story to explain how this happens," Hanks said. "And what it means to the community."

Hanks said that the documentary was able to be created through Legacy Productions, a program funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. This state funding makes programs such as Lakeland's "Common Ground" and "Heartland Symphony" possible.

The decision to film the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat festival was an easy one, Hanks said.

"The festival is a huge cultural event in the Bemidji area," he said.

The video was shot during the 2011 festival and premiered for the first time in March 2012.

Since then, "Paddles Up" has been labeled a success. "It turned out really well," Hanks said. "When we had the screening with the organizers involved, they were excited about it."

Wild added that he was pleased with the capturing of the festival.

"We were able to show why we do this," he said, "And why Bemidji is a good fit for it."

This year, the "Paddles Up" DVD will be for sale in the merchandise tent at the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival for $20 each.

"We got great input from a lot of different people, both young and old from the fest," Hanks said, "The story was told well."

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Pioneer staff reports
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