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Folk musician John Berquist performs the "Lumberjack Alphabet" on a button accordion as part of his Legacy Weekend concert Saturday. Kayla Prasek|Bemidji Pioneer

Lumberjack music comes alive during Legacy Weekend

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

BEMIDJI -Lumberjack music made its way to Bemidji, home of Paul Bunyan, Saturday afternoon.

Folk musician John Berquist of Rochester, entertained the crowd at Calvary Lutheran Church. The performance was originally scheduled for the Depot at the Beltrami County Historical Center, but heavy rains forced it inside.

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Berquist performed traditional lumberjack camp songs and poetry, while also teaching the crowd some history lessons.

"It combines both that art aspect and history," Nicole Foss, executive director of the Beltrami County Historical Center, said.

Foss said she brought Berquist to Bemidji as part of Legacy Weekend.

"I heard about him from another historical society, and they told me he sang not only folk songs, but also lumberjack songs," Foss said. "I thought it'd be a great tie in with the Paul Bunyan birthday celebration."

Berquist has been performing lumberjack songs for more than 30 years, he said.

"I heard a couple and thought they were interesting," Berquist said. "I knew a few old lumberjacks too. Then I was asked to sing a couple lumberjack songs, and I kept finding more songs, so I did a lot of research."

In between performing songs from old lumberjack camps in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, Berquist told a few jokes, shared some stories and gave short history lessons.

"The stories I used to hear from the lumberjacks are the reason I sing," Berquist said. "They used to tell some pretty colorful stories. When I sing, I remember them."

Berquist sang some of his songs a capella. On others, he accompanied himself by playing the button accordion, acoustic guitar or harmonica.

Joanne Janke of Ramsey, Minn., said she decided to come after seeing the show advertised.

"Our family is camping with a group of people and we thought it looked interesting," Janke said. "And it was very interesting."

Val Park of Tyndall, Manitoba, came with Janke's camping group.

"I really enjoyed it," Park said. "He's very talented and easy to listen to and humorous too."

When he's not performing lumberjack music, Berquist plays mainly folk music, he said.

"I play a lot of things from Scandinavian and Finnish descent," Berquist said. "I like bluegrass and Americana. Sometimes I play whatever I can figure out to play or whatever my buddies are playing and need me to play. That can go anywhere, from classic rock to folk."

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