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Public invited to ‘Loop the Lake’ this summer

BEMIDJI — The first Bike Bemidji Loop the Lake Festival is scheduled for June 21, inviting families, friends and tourists to take part in a community bike ride around Lake Bemidji.

The event is not a race. The course will include multiple stops where participants can take a photo, get some water and food, listen to some music, perhaps just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

“A good rider could do (the course) in maybe an hour or less, but we anticipate that people might take three or four hours,” said Muriel Gilman, a member of the steering committee.

The event coincides with the arrival of Nice Ride, a bike-sharing program that last fall selected Bemidji as the first community it would expand its services to outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

“It’s all about celebrating bicycling in Bemidji,” Gillman said, noting the city of Bemidji was named a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2012.

Yet, it also showcases a popular mode of active transportation, and encourages the public to get to enjoy the outdoors and clean air, cultivating physical health along the way.

Coincidentally, the event falls on the first day of the summer, the longest day of the year, so event planners are hoping for good temperatures and lots of sunshine. The course, to begin and end at the Sanford Center, will follow several trails, Birchmont Drive, County Road 20 and trails in Lake Bemidji State Park. There will be a variety of stations along the way featuring food, music and activities.

A “rolling start” is planned from 8 to 9:30 a.m., meaning participants can choose to leave anytime during that span and take their time traversing the route. Gilman said she could envision someone making a first stop at Paul and Babe for a photo, and then stopping again at Diamond Point to take a break. There may be a stop at Ruttger’s and there will be options for activities and rest at Lake Bemidji State Park, perhaps even some live music.

“I would hope that a 7-year-old might decide, ‘Hey, let’s go for it,’” Gilman said. “It’s a great way to encourage kids to bike and that’s why we have lots of stops.”

A range of organizations began planning for the Loop the Lake last fall, as they came together in hopes of establishing an event that would celebrating bicycling in the area and also draw people to town.

“People are really going above and beyond,” Gilman said. “It’s not to make money. It’s really cool civic engagement and a great way to celebrate Bemidji.”

Those involved in establishing the event include Shifting Gears, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Bemidji Parks & Recreation, VisitBemidji, Nice Ride, Bike Alliance of Minnesota, BSU and its Outdoor Program Center, Lake Bemidji State Park and Minnesota DNR Trails & Waterways.

“We come from a lot of different groups that are all interested in cycling,” Gilman said.

Bike Bemidji has also aligned itself with B-Well, or Beltrami Wellness Education for a Long Life, so it is a nonprofit and can accept donations.

Sponsors and volunteers are being sought for the event, which is planned to be an annual occurrence.

Once registration is open, the cost through the end of the May will be $18 for an individual, $30 for a dual (any two people), and $45 for a household, though that package includes at most four tee-shirts. More information will be released at, a site currently under development, as it is finalized.

“We’re shooting for 250 (participants),” Gilman said. “That’s a good starting point … If we get more, that would be great.”