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WINTERFEST: Winterfest celebrates life on the lake

Pioneer file photo Clay Novotny of Bemidji prepares to pass the puck during last year’s pond hockey tournament on Lake Bemidji. Pond hockey is back again this year as part of the new Winterfest on Lake Bemidji.

BEMIDJI — Winterfest on Lake Bemidji is out to reinvent the community’s traditional winter festival.

“The idea kind of from the success of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, which has really grown,” said Denise Anderson, Bemidji Chamber of Commerce events coordinator. “We were looking to give Polar Daze a new look. Kind of liven it up a bit more and get the community involved a little bit more.”

“I guess we wanted to go back to the idea of a Bemidji Winter Carnival,” said Lori Paris, Chamber president. “The weather is here. We might as well enjoy it. We’re true northern Minnesotans, and we choose to live here. So we might as well embrace it.”

She said a group of volunteers from the Chamber membership along with other business people met in June to brainstorm the new festival.

The Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Tournament was already scheduled for Feb. 8, so organizers decided to schedule a full slate of winter activities around that date and the preceding Friday.

“The event formerly known as the Lake Bemidji Pond Hockey Classic is excited to be part of the Bemidji Winterfest event,” said Kayla Walters, general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites, the primary sponsor of Winterfest.

Pond hockey consists of four-on-four teams with no goalies.

Up to 32 teams, each with a roster of up to six skaters, will compete in the open and elite divisions with cash payouts for the top teams. Walters is available at 760-4314 or at

Curling will be back on Lake Bemidji with six lanes and up to 48 four-member teams for the first time since 1932.

The event is a fundraiser for the Bemidji Junior Curling Club. All equipment will be provided for entrants.

The contact is Terry Matson, 444-1579 or

“It’s absolutely going to be perfect weather, no question,” said Matson. “Above zero and no wind and we’ll be happy campers.”

The Bemidji Jaycees Annual Brrrmidji Plunge will continue an 11-year tradition challenging courageous participants to jump into the freezing water of Lake Bemidji.

Plungers raise pledges with the contributions going to the Bemidji Community Soup Kitchen and Bemidji Community Food Shelf.

A registration form is available on the website.

Participants need to raise a minimum of $30 in pledges to take the plunge, and those who raise at least $50 earn a souvenir T-shirt. Registration will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with the plunge starting at 1 p.m.

“We have participants from all over the United States and several other countries taking part every year, many of them in costumes, so you never know what you might see or who you might meet,” said Randi Su Tanem, plunge coordinator.

Those seeking indoor fun can sign up for the Young Professionals Network of the Chamber of Commerce Annual Cornhole Tournament.

Up to 32 teams of two can compete for the trophy and cash prizes.

The game  challenges players to toss bags of corn through a hole in a raised platform to score points.

The Halfway to Dragon Boats Cornhole Tournament will be held in the Hampton Inn and Suites.

The entry fee is $20 per team. Play starts at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Paris listed additional attractions for Winterfest: Jack Christopher and his dog team are scheduled to give rides.

The Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League will play their inaugural game Friday night at the Sanford Center.

Team members will hold an after-game welcome party in the heated refreshment tent following the game.

The tent will also feature live entertainment both nights.

The Green Mill Restaurant will set up a bar.

Hot chocolate and other food and beverages will also be available.

Most Winterfest activities will take place on the ice near the Hampton Inn.

However, the North Country Snowmobile Club’s Radar Run will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the 1,000-foot shaved ice track near the Carnegie Library.

Snowmobiles will compete in several divisions. Entry costs $5 for one run and $20 for five runs. A plowed parking area will be on site so that spectators can watch from their cars.