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It takes a village. . .; Dragon Boat teams personalize their spots

JUSTIN GLAWE BEMIDJI PIONEER A portrait of Albert Einstein hangs from the canopy tent of the Water Soaked Nerds' Team Village in Library Park for the 2013 Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.

BEMIDJI -- Resembling a parking lot at a college football tailgate event, the Team Village area at the 2013 Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival had something for everyone. Only with trees.

There were grills, coolers and lawn chairs aplenty in Library Park overlooking the lake Saturday. Teams adorned their "villages" and canopy tents with all manner of decorations, mainly working from the team's nickname.

At the Water Soaked Nerd's village, for example, a portrait of Albert Einstein hung from one canopy corner and a periodic table could be seen hanging in the back corner.

"It works, because we're all architects and engineers," said team member Scott Huffman. The name Water Soaked Nerds is derived from the first letters of Widseth Smith Nolting, an engineering and architectural firm, naturally.

"And we proved that we don't have a lot of athletic ability," joked WSN team captain Scott Buxton.

Some teams worked on their village themes for months, some only a few days or weeks.

Melissa Schwarzlander and LaVaye Dressen, as well as others, worked from about 7 Friday night to past midnight on the Sanford Health Super Heroes village. Featuring old-fashioned wood carvings with the faces cut out for photos of super heroes, as well as Paul and Babe in a dragon boat, along with a dollar tree, a hopscotch game, sidewalk chalk and bubbles for children, the Super Heroes were awarded with the 2013 Best Village Award.

"Oh my gosh, we're just so excited," Schwarzlander said after awards were announced. "It was just one of those last-minute things."

And it helps if you have what you need at your disposal. That worked for The Swimming Coyotes, team nickname for Acme Tools. Their canopy tent featured a wood skirting of waves, as well as a wood plaque of Duster, the company's coyote mascot, in a dragon boat above the tent. A several-feet high wood carving of Duster, holding a paddle, of course, greeted visitors to the tent.

"We just threw the idea of the theme together in the last week," said Jacki Roeder, team captain.

Last year's Team Village winner, the WESLOH FIVE-O, added a few more plastic stringed fish and made a few other alterations, but mostly it was the same, said Jean Matson. But for the WESLOH FIVE-O, it's not about awards.

The Wesloh team uses the Dragon Boat Festival as a family reunion, of sorts. Family members, averaging close to 50 people, make the trek from all over Minnesota, and as far away as Texas and Maryland. The team name derives from the fact one of the family was going to be turning 50 one year, so they came up with WESLOH FIVE-O and the Hawaiian theme from the television show.

"We just love coming here," said Matson, of Dallas.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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