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Youth invited to 'Go Green at June 7 rally in Bemidji

Bemidji Youth Advisory Commission members (from left) Cole Fylpaa, Charlie Geller, Kali Sandmeyer and Rachel Munson prepare for Sunday's Youth Rally. Pioneer Photo/Bethany Wesley

The June 7 Bemidji Youth Rally returns to the Lake Bemidji waterfront on Sunday after a year away from its regular home.

The free rally, which features live music, entertainment and activities for area youth, was moved last year to Cameron Park because of ongoing construction along Bemidji Avenue.

Seven hundred students attended last year's rally, and planners are expecting even more this year since it has been moved to the waterfront.

"We get a big crowd down here (at the waterfront) for sure," said Charlie Geller, who will be a senior at Bemidji High School during the 2009-10 school year.

The rally, in its ninth year, is an opportunity for area youth to relax and celebrate the end of the school year in a fun, safe environment.

The rally runs from noon to 11 p.m.

"We're excited," Geller said.

Planning for the rally is nearly a year-round project. Organized by the Bemidji Youth Advisory Commission, the rally first is discussed in August, once the new BYAC is convened for the school year.

The theme for this year's event is a "green" one. Free trees will be given to the first 500 youth who show up, courtesy of Bemidji Green Up. Door prizes include two Trek mountain bikes (and helmets).

The trees and bikes are part of the BYAC's initiative to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle, students explained.

Kali Sandmeyer, the president of the BYAC and who also will be a senior at BHS in the fall, said the theme was chosen by the entire BYAC after considering different options.

A couple of themes were discussed and potential T-shirt designs were developed.

"We just kind of brainstormed" and the green-themed shirt was the most liked, Sandmeyer said.

The T-shirts are specially designed each year to fit that year's theme. This year, 150 shirts were printed and will be available at the waterfront for $8 each until 1 p.m. and $10 after.

"A lot of people are asking about the T-shirts and want to get them before the event, before we run out," Geller said

Students already are talking about the rally, BYAC members said.

"It's an annual thing," Sandmeyer said. "Everybody knows about it and goes to it. It's exciting."

Activities this year include a dunk tank, tug-of-war, Fear Factor competition and volleyball tournament. There also is a mural upon which students may write messages or draw pictures, whatever they would like.

Live music will feature bands from Bemidji, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.

Bands scheduled to perform include Nick Jackson, In Pursuit of Tomorrow, Caleb Erickson, Patience, To Say the Least, The Cougar, My My Misfire, Erik and Sam, X-ISLE, Hazy May, Of Calvary, and more.

Northern Light FX will on scene to assist with the PA system.

The BYAC's future

Also available for interested students are BYAC applications for the 2009-10 school year. The BYAC, a commission of the Bemidji City Council, works to provide a voice for youth in the community.

The BYAC is comprised entirely of student members. They also serve on other committees such as the Parks and Trails Commission, Bemidji State University Student Senate, Drug Free Coalition and others.

Aside from the rally, its most visible event, the BYAC also plans listening lunches and other student activities.

But the future of the BYAC has been unknown until recently.

The BYAC was started in 1999, when the City Council partnered with Healthy Community Healthy Kids to create a commission that would give youth a more formal role within the city.

But the BYAC was left in limbo when HCHK dissolved at the end of 2008 due to a lack of funding.

Joe Czapiewski, the BYAC adviser, said has been working with different nonprofits and applying grants - and that work has paid off.

Czapiewski said the BYAC will announce on Sunday its new funding partners, the Drug Free Coalition and Bemidji Jaycees.

While the commission still does not have a "home," the funding will allow the BYAC to continue its operation for one more year.