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A family affair: Weslohs are ready to paddle at Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival

Dave Wesloh of Bemidji has put together the first all-family team in this year's Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. Wesloh Five-O shows off its team banner Wednesday afternoon at the waterfront. From left are the Weslohs: Joe, Dave, Kristofer, Velma, Deb and Merlin, with Josh in front. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

With nearly 50 relatives flying in from five states and 12 cities, the Wesloh family is ready for the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.

Their team, the Wesloh Five-O, will be made up of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews from across the United States.

"One year ago, I raced with the Bemidji Aviation Dragon Flyers and I had a really good time," said Dave Wesloh, the team captain, who lives in Bemidji. "An aunt and uncle from Texas asked (at a family reunion in Texas) what I had been up to.

"A lot of questions later, my uncle proposed if we could make the team work, then he would sponsor the boat."

Dave Wesloh said there were almost enough people to fill a team right there on the spot.

"Talk is easy and I wasn't sure it would really happen, but it continued to show interest," Wesloh said. "My mom did all the logistics on her computer. She's just been firing out e-mails and making sure people have places to stay."

With details set and a whole block of rooms reserved at the Hampton Inn & Suites, the team was registered for the event in February.

"They're all so eager to come to make it happen," said Velma Wesloh, Dave's mom, of Bemidji.

While there are 50 Weslohs coming for the races, the team name idea was really born out of a birthday celebration.

"At Easter we all got together and a cousin, Mike Janiak, suggested Wesloh 5-0 for my birthday, my 5-0," Wesloh said.

The iconic wave from the '60s TV show, Hawaii Five-O, is printed on their team shirts, which were designed by a cousin, while other cousins will be taking on the task of decorating the team camp in a Hawaiian theme.

Even though Wesloh's birthday is actually a few days after the races, family members are still flying in from as far as Texas, Maryland, Georgia, Florida and across Minnesota for the weekend.

"It's all because of Dave's 50th birthday that it all fell together," Velma said.

With family members only starting to arrive yesterday, the team has arranged to have their one and only practice after the Parade of Teams ceremonies at 8 p.m. Friday. Even with only the one practice, Wesloh was still confident about the team's performance this Saturday.

"We're going to win it; that was the goal right away. To have fun too, but we have good chemistry," he said.

The team will be competing in the first heat of the day on Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Even with family spread out throughout the country, Wesloh said that being together was a high priority for the group.

"This is the second time we're getting together this summer for a strictly fun weekend," he said. "We're really spread out, but it's like we've been neighbors for years. That's why we'll do good."

Team practices will continue 5-9 p.m. tonight and noon to 5 p.m. Friday. The Parade of Teams and opening ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday Races begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

The food court, musical entertainment and the Dragon's Den is available beginning at 5 p.m. tonight.