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Shough family reunion includes wedding anniversary celebration, Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival

Mark and Pat Shough of Bemidji, seated top left, are surrounded by family members who this week will compete in the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Races under the team name "Shough's Shark Ship." On Sunday, they will help celebrate the Shoughs' 50th wedding anniversary. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Extravaganza. That's the word that would accurately describe the Shough family reunion that will take place on Saturday, Aug. 6.

Not only are the 42 family members coming together for a reunion, they are joining on the celebration of Mark and Pat Shough's 50th anniversary.

It gets better: 20 members, including the celebrating couple, will be competing in the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.

"It just fell together," said Mark Shough, who organized the entire family event.

What started out as a mere family reunion soon became a family celebration of the Shoughs' anniversary.

"We wanted to do something special and fun," Mark said. "Since we are all going to be together during Dragon Boat weekend, I thought, 'Why not?"

Shough, a Bemidji Rotary Club member, has been part of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival since it began. Co-owner of Bemidji Aviation, Shough has been on the Bemidji Aviation dragon boat team in past years.

Without the Bemidji Aviation team participating this year, Shough turned to his family to join him in the races.

"They were in it from the beginning," Shough said of his family. The Shough family team members proudly wore their matching "Shough's Shark Ship" T-shirts.

The Shough household teemed with life as brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren joked with and heckled one another. Everyone seemed to have a job: food was spread over tables and counter tops, and a slide show of the family throughout the years flashed in the living room, as granddaughter Skiler Shough and her boyfriend, Alex Norton, added new family photos to the compilation.

The family has planned events for every night that they are together, complete with themed meals and entertainment provided by the members.

"There are people here from all over," Pat Shough said.

It's true: members came to Bemidji from more than 8 states, ranging from California to North Carolina.

Despite the unorthodox manner of an anniversary celebration, Pat said that she was excited for it.

"Besides Mark, we are all new to it," Pat said of the festival

Although first questioning the strenuous nature of dragon boat racing, Mark's sister and brother-in-law Cathy and Jerry Ammons took to the idea warmly.

"In our old age, it's an exciting new experience," Jerry said. "It's a highlight."

His wife added, "This is the first time in two years that all of us have been together."

A 50-year anniversary is an important event on its own, yet Mark and Pat Shough believe that the company and support of their relatives will emphasize its importance even more.

As Mark looked around his crowded living room, he said, "Family is what makes this monumental."