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A history of music: Turtle River day to feature day long concert celebrating the music and musicians who recorded at Gary Burger’s studio

TURTLE RIVER -- What better way to honor one of the area's biggest music influences than with a concert.

An all-day concert.

The 10th annual Turtle River Day on Saturday will honor former mayor Gary Burger, who died in March, and the musicians he helped. The day will feature more than 15 musical acts who have recorded at Burger's studio through the years.

"There are a lot more," said Maggie Carlson, who puts together the Turtle River History tent where the concert will take place. "He helped and recorded a lot of local musicians over the years."

Cindy Burger, his wife, said a complete list of artists Gary recorded probably exists. Though, she said with a laugh, she has no idea where it could be.

"Probably in the basement somewhere," she said.

Most everyone they contacted to participate agreed to perform. That includes some musicians who are now out of state. The concert is set to begin at 9 a.m. and will go until about 8:30 p.m.

"It's just amazing, people traveling hours to perform here for a 30-minute set," Carlson said. "It just shows how much (Gary) impacted them."

More than a Monk

Burger was a big influence on the Bemidji music scene. He was also known for his 60s band, The Monks, that many consider to be the originators of punk rock.

"It's funny, because Gary never really talked about The Monks a whole lot," Carlson said. "He wanted to be more than a 'Monk.' He wanted to be known as the mayor of Turtle River."

Burger was quite the character, Carlson said. "He was so funny, just a great sense of humor."

Burger would ride a Model T through the Turtle River Day Parade that sported his campaign motto: "The No Progress Platform." He is also the only mayor in Minnesota to have signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a national mayor's agreement meant to be more effective than the International Kyoto Protocol, according to Carlson.

"One of the girls in town, environmentalism was her thing at the time, and she went to Gary and said 'the Bemidji mayor won't sign this, would you?' and his smiled and said 'Why not?'" Carlson said with a laugh.

On stage with the Monks, Carlson said Gary would encourage the crowd to boo them.

"It was part of their act," Cindy Burger said with a laugh. "The haircuts --tonsures-- (parts of the top of their heads were shaved) and the robes -- it was their act."

Turtle River Day

Turtle River Day has grown quite a bit through the years.

"It's become much more family orientated these days," Cindy Burger said. "There is a lot going on for the day for children."

This year will feature two bouncy houses for the younger children. The annual parade will take place at 1 p.m., as well. And the parade will once again feature "Myrtle the Turtle," a fake turtle with fake human legs that gives the illusion that whomever is using it is riding a giant turtle.

New this year is a Tractor Pedal Pull for children ages 4-11.

"Believe it or not, if any of the kids do really well, they will be eligible for the state tournament," Carlson said. "That's pretty cool."

A classic car show will also take place.

"Those cars are so cool. They also help make the parade a little longer" Cindy Burger said with a laugh.

Turtle River Day is put together by a relatively small group of people and a contingent of volunteers for the day. They have received funds through various events throughout the year, and this year they used a Kickstarter campaign, which allows people to donate online. If anyone is interested in supporting the efforts of continuing to build upon local music in the area, just log on to Kickstarter and search with the words Gary Burger.

Turtle River Day

A schedule of events for Turtle River Day, Aug. 23 in Turtle River.

• 8 a.m.: Registration for 5th Annual 5K Fun Run/Walk/Turtle Crawl at New Salem Lutheran Church on old Hwy 71, across from the Chophouse..

• 8 to 11 a.m.: Pancake breakfast, $5, New Salem Lutheran Church.

• 8:30 a.m. to 12:30p.m.: Kiddie Carnival and Bounce House, The Meadow.

• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Craft Fair and Flea Market, The Meadow.

• 9 a.m.: 5K Race. Start at New Salem Lutheran Church.

• 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.: Music, History Tent at The Meadow. See schedule.

• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Car show, The Meadow.

• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Crossword Puzzle Contest, $100 prize, no cost, The Meadow.

• 11 a.m. Tractor Pull for children, The Meadow near the highway. (Registration at 10 a.m.)

• 1 p.m. Parade, four prizes ranging from $50 to $100.

Music Schedule at The Meadow

• 9 to 9:30 a.m.: Mike and Maggie. Music for children

• 9:40. to 10:10 a.m.: Eric Carlson

• 10:20 to 10:50 a.m.: Lance Benson

• 11 to 11:15 a.m.: Courtney Guns

• 11:25 to 11:50 a.m.: Wooden Nichols

• Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Bryan Steenerson.

• 12:40 to 1 p.m.: Shyanne Kaml

• 2:00 to 2:30 p.m.: Kent Dudley with Bended Knee

• 2:40 to 3:10 p.m.: Carl Baer and Friends.

• 3:20 to 3:50 p.m.: Caleigh & James Siems.

• 4 to 4:30 p.m.: Steve Kaul.

• 4:40 ti 5:10 p.m.: Ophoven Family.

• 5:20 to 5:50 p.m.: Mark Emblom.

• 6 to 6:30 p.m.: Ken Whelan with Shotgun.

• 6:40 to 7:10 p.m.: Kim Herrington.

• 7:20 to 7:50 p.m.: Berge Family.

• 8 to 8:30 p.m.: Franklin Mullen

Joe Froemming

Joe Froemming is a page designer for Forum Communications Co. You can read his blog at

You can follow him on Twitter @JosephBemidji

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