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Preparations for Finlandia underway

BUENA VISTA -- "We're psyched" is the word from Mark Morrissey in charge of trail grooming for this weekend's 29th annual Minnesota Finlandia.

The registration is well ahead of last year's numbers as plenty of snow and mild temperatures promise a great cross country ski race.

The race will have super fast skating and a great classical track that will be set up Wednesday or Thursday evening.

Race director Mike Huerbin, who will enter his 10th season, said he is happy with above-average snow conditions. He said skiers from Alaska and Pennsylvania had already registered by Tuesday. After a two-year hiatus, the Rossignal team will also compete, and two-time Olympian Andrew Johnson has registered. Last year's 50k male winner, Wynn Roberts, is presently competing in the biathlon at the Olympics.

Huerbin said the addition of the 25k Skinny Ski Pursuit four years ago has helped bring the top competitors to Bemidji.

The race and tour registration will open from 4:30-9 p.m. today, Feb. 19, at the Keg-n-Cork, with the spaghetti feed at the same location from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

The Buena Vista Classic 25 k/25k Pursuit will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20; the Minnesota Finlandia 50k/25k Bemidjithon will begin at 10:30 a.m.; the Byrce Ronnander Memorial 10 km tour will start at 10:35 a.m. The Hall of Fame Hospitality Feed for skiers and volunteers will open at 11 a.m. with the award ceremony to be held at the Eagles Club at 5:30 p.m.

A tradition will follow Sunday with the Family Funday and the half-k Babe's Tour 3k kids' tour. These races are free for children and the Hiihtolakki "Ski Cap" Relay - 3k-by-4 skiers - race will begin at 1 p.m. Registration is one hour before each event will be held in the Hall of Fame building at Buena Vista.