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Loop the Lake Festival: Looking forward to the Loop

Greg Ward and daughter Erica Ward bike the path near downtown Bemidji on Friday. The pair plan to take part in today’s Loop the Lake Festival, a 17-mile ride around Lake Bemidji. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Although Erica Ward has lived in Bemidji almost all her life, for the first time she will be biking the 17-mile loop around Lake Bemidji as an entrant today in the Loop the Lake Festival. Her father, Greg, will be joining her in his first long bike ride in many years.

"We're not racers at all. We're in the novice stage yet. I used to ride a lot about 30 years ago," Greg said.

Erica, 32, recently became interested in cycling after taking a Bike 101 class through Bemidji Community Education in April. She learned basic bike maintenance, including how to change a tire and how to navigate through traffic on roads. The class helped her build confidence in biking, and she thought it was time to put her bike knowledge to good use.

"I haven't gone on a long bike ride since about 2005 when a friend and I biked the 15-mile trail around Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park," she said. "Ever since then I always thought biking would be really fun to get into. I thought, 'This would be cool.'"

The Loop the Lake Festival is designed as an attractive event for people who have wanted to bike around the lake, but never have because the distance seemed intimidating. The course has eight rest stops, making the ride much more manageable for cyclists who want to go on a more leisurely ride and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

"I like that there's a whole bunch of rest stops. It's not very far between them, so I think that helped convince my dad and I that we could do this together. We can go a couple of miles and then stop and get a drink or listen to music or have some food. I think that's a really attractive thing," Erica said.

Erica and Greg, 60, are excited to see there is a lot of community support behind the event and to see so many people out on bicycles.

"Biking is a great way to exercise, see some territory, and explore a little bit. You have a lot of freedom on a bike, and it's cheap," Greg said. "When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike 20 miles without even thinking about it. I would go pick up pop bottles on the road and come back with 30 cents worth of bottles and then go buy myself a pop. We would ride our bikes all over the place, that was our only mode of transportation."

With more than 200 entrants signed up, the Loop the Lake is going to be popular, but Erica is hoping to see more people sign up this morning. "Biking is very eco-friendly. And fun. Anybody can do it," she said.

Erica and her father are looking forward to the ride and being able to relax along the way. They are hoping the weather will cooperate, so they can finally bike the lake together.

Greg said, "I've always wanted to ride around the lake, and I've oiled my bike, so I'm ready."

If you go

What: Loop the Lake Festival, a community bike ride around Lake Bemidji.

Where: Sanford Center parking lot

When: A rolling start between 8 and 9:30 a.m.

Cost: $25 for solo riders; $35 for dual riders and $55 for households of 3-6; Riders registering today will pay $2 extra.


Serratore is entering her senior year at Bemidji High School and is interning at the Pioneer through the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Pohlad Summer Internship Program.