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Not bogged down at all: Kelliher, Waskish celebrate Big Bog Festival

Elaine Borud throws Ethan Hansen, 10, a piece of candy during the Big Bog Fest parade Saturday. (Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)

KELLIHER -- Two small towns in northern Minnesota once again are a little bigger on a July weekend.

The towns of Kelliher and Waskish are hosting the annual Big Bog Festival through today. The annual festivities area longtime tradition for both communities.

The festival’s history is a long and varied. In 1972, Kelliher coordinated with Waskish to hold its first Wild Rice Festival. After continuing for more than 25 years, it was renamed Kelliher Days. In the mid 2000s, the towns decided to name the festival after the Big Bog State Recreation Area and the name has stuck ever since.

Kelliher residents say even before the Wild Rice Festival, there usually was some type of summer get-together in the area. “There was always a summer celebration. Every little town had one,” said Linda Olson.

The festival draws many people from out of town, including family and friends who come back each year for the event. Lori Rennemo, another Kelliher resident, said the weekend’s festivities serve as a reunion for many people in the area, including local high schools..

One of the staples of the festival is the parade; this year’s was held Saturday. Local politicians, safety services, and vintage cars made their way down the town’s small main street as children filled their bags with candy.

Dan Persons, parade organizer, said with 31 entries, this year’s parade was one of the most successful ones they’ve held in recent years.“We actually weren’t planning on having a parade this year,” Persons said.

When he heard that, Persons and Kevin Waldo volunteered to organize the parade, one of many volunteers who make these types of weekend festivals possible.

“It’s like anything else in a small town. Everyone has to volunteer their time. If you want something nice you have to get people together to put it together,” he said.

Persons said there will definitely be a parade next  year. “I personally won’t let that die,” he said.

Sunday's events will be taking place in Waskish and will include a pancake breakfast at 10 a.m., a kiddie parade and games at 11:30 a.m., an ATV Mud run at noon and free bingo at 2:30 p.m.