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Celebrating a history: Turtle River Day

MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER Maggie Carlson, portraying Simon E. Bright, rehearses her storytelling with the help of Fortuna Puppet Theater as she prepares for Turtle River Day celebration on Saturday.

TURTLE RIVER -- Saturday's 8th Annual Turtle River Day is a chance for people to learn how the tiny town grew up in turbulent times.

Turtle River Day will run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, a chance for many to celebrate the town's unique past.

A growing feature of the festival is the history tent, which tells the story of the town during its years of high production, primarily the year 1908.

"It was the boom and bust time," said Maggie Carlson, who will be relating the tale through the eyes of Simon E. Bright, a sailor who came to Turtle River from Nova Scotia.

Bright passed away in 1914, but Carlson learned plenty about him through his son, who she says has a great memory of life in Turtle River in the early 1900s.

To go along with Carlson's storytelling, the "Fortuna Puppet Theater" will add some comedic effect and keep the attention of children by narrating the tale.

Also in the tent, Carlson said she made a display of the old town out of cereal boxes so visitors can see how the town once looked.

"I really got carried away with it," Carlson said with a laugh.

Turtle River was home to 400 people during the early 1900s, but is now down to just 77, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Also in the tent will be birchbark canoe demonstrations, logging songs and a spinning demonstration.

Wagon rides will be given to tour Old Turtle River and Carlson will give details on long-ago establishments. The tours will be given at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. and cost $5 for adults and are free for children.

The Turtle River History Tent will be open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with Carlson and the Fortuna Puppet Theater telling the story of Old Turtle River at 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

Here's look at other events:

• From 8 to 11 a.m., visitors can fill up with a pancake breakfast at the New Salem Church, 7491 Island View Dr. NE.

• The 4th Annual 5K Fun Run/Walk/Turtle Crawl will be held with registration at 8 a.m. near the old Bar 71 site and the race will start at 9 a.m. Other contests throughout the day will include a crossword puzzle contest from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a pie-eating contest at 2 p.m.

• For children, a kiddie carnival and bounce house will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the New Salem Church. The 2nd Annual Turtle Town Bicycle Olympics, for ages 13 and younger, will begin at 2:30 p.m.

• Other activities throughout the day include a craft fair and flea market by the old Turtle Creek Saloon site and an open car show.

• The parade will begin at 1 p.m. with registration starting at noon at the Bar 71 site. Contestants can win $100 cash prize or one of the three $50 cash prizes.

• For nighttime entertainment, Fireline Country and Classic Rock band will perform 7 to 11 p.m. on stage at the old Turtle Creek Saloon site.

If you go:

What: Turtle River Day

When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Old 71 bar site, Salem Lutheran Church and old Turtle Creek Saloon site

Cost: Free

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

(218) 333-9786