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Curling tournament to headline inaugural ‘Winterfest on Lake Bemidji’

Zach Kayzer | Bemidji Pioneer Organizers gathered Monday to announce Bemidji’s new winter festival, “Winterfest on Lake Bemidji.” From the left, Paul Bunyan; Scott Turn, Winterfest chairman; Kayla Walters, organizing Pond Hockey; and Chuck Hildebrandt, organizing the 1/2 Way to Dragon Boats Cornhole Tournament.

BEMIDJI — A new winter festival is coming to Bemidji next February as “Polar Daze” is reborn as “Winterfest on Lake Bemidji” — with a curling rock featured prominently on its logo.

Organizers and Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce executives gathered Monday in the chamber’s office near the Paul and Babe statues to announce the new festival will be happening Feb. 7- 8 as well as its star event: an open curling tournament to take place on the frozen waters of Lake Bemidji. A curling tournament hasn’t happened on the lake since 1932. This curling tournament, or “bonspiel” will be organized by the Bemidji Curling Club and is intended to harken back to the roots of Bemidji winter festivals.

“During those festivals, the citizens of Bemidji were first introduced to three things that would forever change our city,” said Scott Turn, the event’s chairman. “Paul and Babe and curling.”

Organizers said February’s curling tournament will be geared toward all ages and skill levels. Terry Matson, head of the club’s Junior Curling Committee and lead organizer of the bonspiel, said the club would post curling experts to help newcomers get the hang of the sport.

“We’re going to have to have people there to help them and show them what to do, I think that’s important for them to know,” he said.

The bonspiel will consist of four-person teams with a 48-team limit. Turn said organizers are aiming to have comparable attendance numbers with the Dragon Boat Festival held in the summer.

Winterfest events will be localized around and inside the Hampton Inn & Suites on Lake Bemidji’s south shore.

Several Polar Daze events such as the Brrrmidji Plunge and Pond Hockey will be absorbed into the Winterfest roster.

This year, proceeds from the plunge will benefit the Bemidji Community Food Shelf and the Bemidji Community Soup Kitchen.

Pond Hockey will feature two divisions of four-on-four hockey matches with cash prizes for winning teams.

Teams can have up to six players on their roster, but no goalies are allowed during play.

The Pond Hockey tournament is limited to 32 teams.

For those wishing to stay indoors, the “1/2 Way to Dragon Boats Cornhole Tournament” will feature the less demanding sport of cornhole inside the Hampton Inn & Suites, where participants attempt to throw small sacks through holes in wooden boards.

In addition to the sports, a heated beverage tent and live music on the ice are also planned.

The annual 5K run will continue, but separately from Winterfest events.

Sled derby organizers have not yet determined whether to merge with Winterfest.

More information on Winterfest can be found at the event’s Facebook page or its own webpage,

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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