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Big Bog Festival takes over towns

The Big Bog Boardwalk is one-mile long and is part of the Big Bog State Recreation Area, located just north of Upper Red Lake and spans 500-square miles. The bog is home to rare wildlife such as carnivorous plants and orchids. Photo by Christen Furlong.1 / 2
Isabelle Staley, center, and her brother, Isaac walk the Big Bog Boardwalk Friday afternoon during the Big Bog Festival in Kelliher and Waskish. Photo by Christen Furlong.2 / 2

KELLIHER -- Big goings on this weekend at the Big Bog.

The Kelliher and Waskish Big Bog Festival began Friday with presentations by the Minnesota Department of Resources in Waskish and live band, "Obstruction of Justice," at the Kelliher Liquor Store. But the real fun begins bright and early this morning with a softball tournament at the Kelliher School Ball Fields at 8:30 a.m., and a Classic and Modified Car Show at 10.

The Big Bog Festival features over 25 events - sports, entertainment and food - that span three days. The majority of Saturday's events will take place in Kelliher and the majority of Sunday's are in Waskish.

For event and festival organizer Deb Mayer, the festival is a chance to see old friends, family and acquaintances. "There's been quite a few people coming in and out for the festival," she said. "(I love) seeing people I haven't seen for awhile.'"

The festival's name derives from the infamous 500 square-mile peat bog just north of Waskish, known as the "Big Bog," a vast region of peatlands estimated to be the remains of the colossal Lake Agassiz, which extended across the greater part of North America approximately 20,000 years ago.

Today, the Big Bog is contained in a state recreation area which the DNR calls "Minnesota's last true wilderness," and appears to be a stretch of forest and marsh. But should you put your foot onto its mossy surface (which you are not allowed to do), your foot will disappear into hundreds of years of floating acidic soil.

The state park attracts a wide variety of visitors each year who can trek through its thrush on a mile-long boardwalk made from steel and plastic grates. Built in 2005, it was specially crafted to withstand steady foot traffic but also allow light to pass through its surface to provide sunlight to the vegetation. Visitors to the festival are welcome to walk the boardwalk or climb the fire tower at the DNR station in Waskish any time throughout the weekend.

The festival, while named after the bog, is instead focused on the two towns that formed around it: Kelliher and Waskish. The story behind the towns' foundations can be found in pictures and antiques at the North Beltrami Heritage Center in Kelliher and displays a new exhibit which paints the journey of those arrived first, "They Came By Water." The exhibit and Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

The Big Bog Festival has a steady stream of events throughout the weekend with the Classic and Modified Car Show, an archery shoot, food and flea market, children's tractor pull, lawnmower races, and a parade through Kelliher at 1 p.m.

"I think it's really great to see everyone come together as a community," Mayer said. "People come to see what's changed and how everything is going."

Featured Big Bog events:

Saturday in Kelliher

8:30 a.m. - Softball tournament

9 a.m.-4 p.m. - Food and flea market

10-2 p.m. - Classic and modified car show

1 p.m. - Parade

3 p.m. - Lawnmower races

9 p.m. - "Strange Daze" at Old School Center

Sunday in Waskish

10 a.m. - Wild rice pancake breakfast

11:30 a.m. - Kids parade

Noon - ATV mud run

2:30 p.m. - Bingo