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Onlookers watch as Blackduck Mayor Megan Gustafson passes down Summit Avenue atop the Wells Fargo Stagecoach during the 2013 Backwoods Bash parade on Saturday. Christen Furlong | Bemidji Pioneer

Parade highlights Backwoods Bash in Blackduck

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BLACKDUCK — Because the Backwoods Bash started nine years ago with a parade, it was only fitting that this year’s parade was the biggest it's ever seen.

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"We had a great turnout," Bash organizer Heidi Landis said. "The commander of the American Legion actually just came up to me and said, "this is the biggest parade I’ve seen here in years.’"

The parade, which began in front of Blackduck High School, had over 40 entries and wound its way down Summit Avenue and then to Main Street with fire and police sirens wailing, children shrieking in delight and the sound of horse hooves clattering from under the harnesses of the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.

The stagecoach was a new addition to the Backwoods Bash this year, sponsored by the Blackduck Wells Fargo Bank. Four sleek horses pulled the stagecoach with Blackduck Mayor Megan Gustafson perched just above the driver’s box, waving to her neighbors.

When the final float passed on, crowds meandered west for the Bash at the Wayside Rest just off Highway 71, where tents, giant inflatable obstacle courses and slides, food vendors, fire trucks with hoses littered the park. Even Dora the Explorer could be seen just under the gazebo surrounded by a lengthy line of parents, children and strollers waiting for a photo.

"My kids just love it," resident Erica Zanter said, who had just paid for ride wristbands for her kids. "Their favorite part is the bounce houses, of course. It’s $10 a piece well spent. It keeps them entertained for the entire day and I just get to sit around and watch them."

Zanter moved to Blackduck from Bemidji three years ago for the smaller community life and the added safety that comes with it. But this was only her family’s second Backwoods Bash.

"The first year that we were here and the Bash was going on, my husband and I actually got married that same night. We didn’t come down here for that," she said, with a laugh. "We were busy."

That morning when the Bash kicked off with its annual 5K event, the weather was cool and windy with a few clouds blocking the sun. But it cleared off just in time for the parade and forced visitors to remove long sleeves and jackets.

"The weather has been beautiful," Landis said, adding that she might need a mid-afternoon nap from all the excitement. "Things are going great. Everything has been going so smoothly."

Landis also celebrated her 20th high school reunion this weekend and spent Saturday evening with former classmates enjoying music by October Son at The Pond.

"Every year there’s a reunion out during the Bash because its a nice time to do it," she said. "You can bring your kids, go to the parade and then at night, the adults can go out to The Pond."

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