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LAKE BEMIDJI DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL: The Village people: Teams once again go out of their way to adorn hangouts

Llyanna Nix,11, and Hunter Johnson, 8, watch Ano Chernugl, 8, play an arcade game at the Paul Bunyan Communications tent. (Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- In this day and age, what with smartphones, tablets and the like, someone playing video games in the Team Village area of the 2014 Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat festival shouldn't come as a surprise.

But the Digital Dragons from Paul Bunyan Communications took gaming to an entirely new level Saturday.

The team, mostly comprised of employees in the company's Internet division, built their own classic arcade game and were offering passers-by a chance for a prize with the highest score on “Donkey Kong.”

That's right, they "built" it themselves.

Digital Dragon captain Jay Harty said the team has been working on the video game for about four months, building it from scratch. They constructed the frame and screen, and only had to special order a few components. The Paul Bunyan Communications nameplate at the top was styled in letters resembling a classic “Pac-Man” arcade game.

"We just thought it's be a lot of fun," Harty said. They hauled the game over early Saturday morning, and at first, not a lot of people were stopping by, he said.

"We put up some 'play for free' signs, and that seems to be working," he said as a young boy was busy sending Mario leaping over some barrels.

Grills and guppies

The Digital Dragons weren't the only teams playing games. Several villages featured cornhole bean bag toss games. Over at the Acme Tools' village, the team of The Swimming Coyotes featured minnow races.

All around the village area were grills, coolers and lawn chairs as team members relaxed between races and many went from village to village chatting with friends and competitors alike.

Most villages and canopy tents were decorated off the team names, many of which were colorful in their own right.

The Moto Dragons from Dondelinger GM brought back their paper mache "castle" to go around the village. And their homemade dragon statue once again had its usual spot, although team captain Joe Gennes said the dragon may have to be retired after this year and be replaced. The Moto Dragons have taken part in every Dragon Boat Festival except year No. 1, Gennes said.

"We always have a great time," he said.

The year's best village award went to WESLOH FIVE-O, a previous top village winner. The Wesloh family uses the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival as a sort of family reunion each year. The name comes from the fact that when they formed the team, one of the family members was going to be celebrating a 50th birthday, so they came up with WESLOH FIVE-O and went off the former television show for the village’s Hawaiian theme and each year they just keep adding to it.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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