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Beltrami County Historical Society pub crawl to feature downtown bars, characters

The Beltrami County Historical Society has hosted downtown historical tours and cemetery walks with re-enactors portraying figures from local history.

This year, inspired by an idea from RP Broadcasting's Dan Voss, Beltrami County History Center Director Wanda Hoyum said the Historical Society decided to try something different.

The result will be the 2010 Ox Trot Historic Pub Crawl on Thursday, Sept. 23, featuring 10 downtown Bemidji bar-restaurants.

"I actually did a pub crawl when I was in Key West, Fla.," Voss said. "They sat you down and said this is Ernest Hemingway's favorite bar, and this was his favorite drink."

Voss said he doesn't remember what that drink was.

"It was a crawl," he said. "This will be a lot more mild than that. That's why we called it the Ox Trot. We don't want anyone to crawl."

The Ox Trot will be held in two sessions at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. The cost is $25 and includes entertainment by local re-enactors, food and drink at each stop, a T-shirt with the Ox Trot logo and the opportunity to build a poker hand for prizes from Northern Lights Casino.

"We were really looking at embellishing the cemetery walk and the downtown history tour," Hoyum said.

She said the walk will start at the History Center, which is in the Great Northern Depot. Railroad magnate James J. Hill, played by Ernie Rall, will welcome everyone. The tour will continue around downtown to eight bars with characters portrayed at each stop, refreshments and a history of each of the buildings. In all, Hoyum said the tour will cover about eight blocks.

"Of course, the more libations we have, we probably won't want to walk farther," she said.

The only downtown bar that has stayed in character for its entire existence is Bar 209, Hoyum said. It opened in 1904 as the Peerless Hotel, changed hands a number of times and served as the municipal liquor store and bar from 1937-1951. It also had a long run as Gene's Place Tavern from 1969-1987.

Other downtown bars have gone through various incarnations, Hoyum said. For example, Keg N Cork was once a millinery shop owned by three sisters, Agnes, Real and Fayal Edwards.

"Our character will be Fayal Edwards played by Janet Rith-Najarian," Hoyum said.

The business passed into the hands of the Smart family, who ran it as a livery stable and ice factory. Mitch Rautio, a Smart in-law, continues to operate the establishment.

She said Toasty Beaver's was once a photographic studio owned by Neils Hakkerup, who took many of the photos of Bemidji now in the Historical Society collection. The building also housed Bemidji Music, Bemidji Bowling Center and the Moose Lodge.

Other venues on the tour will be Union Station, Backyard BBQ, Brigid's Cross Irish Pub, the Elks Club and the American Legion.