Bemidji Jaycees' 77th Annual Water Carnival to kick off traditional summer events
The Bemidji Jaycees’ 77th Annual Water Carnival is shaping up to be a lively kickoff to summertime. Starting Thursday, July 1, and going through Monday, July 5, the event is expected to resemble the carnivals from years past that the Bemidji community has come to love, said Water Carnival co-chairman Eva Fisher.
BEMIDJI -- With less than a month away, the Bemidji Jaycees’ 77th Annual Water Carnival is shaping up to be a lively kickoff to summertime, with many classic events -- and even some newbies -- returning as a sign that life is gradually returning to normal.
Starting Thursday, July 1, and going through Monday, July 5, the event is expected to resemble the carnivals from years past that the Bemidji community has come to love, according to Water Carnival co-chairman Eva Fisher.
Last year, the coronavirus pandemic altered the event’s landscape and became the Water “Quarnival,” a scaled down version of activities that gave residents respite after months of quarantining at home.
Encouraging pandemic guidelines and social distancing, the quarnival illustrated Jaycee resourcefulness at its finest with events like the Grand “Unparade,” which Josh Peterson, chairman of last year's Water Carnival, described as a “parade in reverse” and allowed folks to safely drive through parade floats and receive treats.
Now, plans for this year’s traditional carnival have been set in stone after months of planning that has kept the Jaycees on their toes. With nearly month-by-month changes to pandemic safety guidelines from the state and governor, preparing the summer mainstay has proven to be a unique challenge for the local organization, Fisher said.
“All the changes have been in our favor, but it's been interesting and extremely difficult because if something changes, then there's a lot of things that have to be done, and they have to be done right away, in order for us to have this event,” Fisher said. “But it’s 100% worth it because this is essentially the kickoff to summer and it's 77 years in the making.
“We wanted to make sure that we had something, especially after last year. Then, we rallied and still managed to put on a couple of things, but we wanted this year to be as close to normal while keeping everybody safe and having fun.”
She said folks can expect to see Merriam’s Midway and food vendors back in the Sanford Center parking lot this year, as well as in-person activities like bingo. However, there will not be an entertainment tent, as timing did not work out to obtain necessary permits.
The Grand Parade is also coming back in its traditional style, but it will have a change of route. Rather than taking Third Street off Beltrami Avenue, the parade will turn onto Fifth Street.
“This year, because of the outdoor dining barricades that are downtown, we're concerned that children might go past them or it's going to really limit the ability for our floats to turn corners,” Fisher said. “We have never done this route before, but it's essentially the same, just a little bit shorter.”
The Jaycees are also ensuring that families feel comfortable participating in child-friendly activities this year and are offering both in-person and virtual versions of the Kiddie Parade. And, instead of an in-person bike dig, there will be a coloring contest held in which participants ages 12 and younger can possibly win a bike.
Additionally, the Double Your Fun Color Run, the Medallion Hunt, the Bald Eagle Water Ski Show and the Fourth of July Red, White and Boom fireworks display are all included in the carnival’s roundup of festivities.
While this last year has been a hard hit to both local businesses and organizations, including the Jaycees, Fisher said the support of the community is essential for their continuing success so events like the Water Carnival can endure as a town tradition.
“The biggest way that the community can help us out is to attend these events,” Fisher said. “If you've gone to the Water Carnival before, if you normally go to bingo, if you normally take your family down for the rides and go to the parade, just continue doing that.
“The biggest thing is that the Water Carnival creates memories. I remember being a kid and going to it and playing games at the Midway and winning a goldfish. Those things stick with people. We made sure to focus on that this year because families -- and everybody -- need something to do since they've really been taken away. Focusing on ways to make those memories was really important this year.”
A lot is in store for the 77th annual Water Carnival and you won’t want to miss it. Here’s what the event schedule looks like for the five days of summertime fun in Bemidji:
The 77th Annual Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival Grand Parade will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 4. It will start at the intersection of 15th Street and Beltrami Avenue and travel south on Beltrami Avenue, turn west on Fifth Street for one block and then head north along Minnesota Avenue, ending again on 15th Street.
For those interested in participating in the parade, pre-registration on the Bemidji Jaycees website is required by Monday, June 28. Registration fees after June 28 are non-refundable, and a late registration fee will apply after June 28.
“We've had quite a few of our regulars coming back, so we're super excited,” Fisher said. “After early bird registration ends on June 28, the prices change and we can't guarantee spots in the parade. Plus, you can’t really choose your place in the parade anymore -- you just get placed at the end.”
The Medallion Hunt begins Monday, June 28, with clues being announced daily on Lakeland News, RP Broadcasting and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting radio stations, and the Bemidji Jaycee Facebook page and website . Clues will be announced daily until the medallion is found.
The $3 medallion button is required to win the $500 grand prize. The buttons are only available from June 14-28.
“That first day the clue runs, you can still get the button, but then they'll be switched out for the regular carnival buttons,” Fisher said. “If you find the medallion you win $500, but without the button you win $250, so either way there's a prize.”
Carnival buttons will be available from Tuesday, June 29, to Monday, July 5. They are available in a limited quantity at the following locations: myBemidji, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Marketplace Foods, Subway (all 3 Bemidji locations), TruStar Federal Credit Union, and Visit Bemidji.
Merriam's Midway is set to open at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, and go through Monday, July 5 at the Sanford Center parking lot.
They will have all the traditional rides, games and food, Fisher said. “So everything is as close to normal as it was before," she said.
Bingo will open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, in the Sanford Center parking lot. It will then be open daily from noon to 10 p.m. on July 2-4. Participants must be 18 years or older.
Double Your Fun Color Run
The family-friendly 5K Color Run is Saturday, July 3, with check in starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Rotary Pavilion in Paul Bunyan Park. The run will begin at 10 a.m. and leave from the Paul Bunyan Park parking lot, go south, looping back at the Nymore Boat Access and end at the starting point.
There will be several color stations along the way to blast participants with tons of colorful fun. This event is in-person and there is no on-site registration. The deadline to register to be guaranteed a T-shirt was June 10. Participants can register online for the event on the Bemidji Jaycee website until at 8 a.m. on July 3. Registration fees are non-refundable.
There will be both in-person and virtual Kiddie Parades this year.
The in-person Kiddie Parade will be held at noon on Saturday, July 3, at the BSU Bangsberg parking lot on 12th street, and it will go down Lake Boulevard to Sixth Street. Registration starts at 11 a.m. the same day. It can also be done on the Bemidji Jaycees website .
“For our normal in-person Kiddie Parade, kids can come with their decorated Power Wheels or their bicycles or whatever and have their own little parade,” Fisher said. “But anybody who can't make it or doesn't feel comfortable with coming -- or who wants to participate in both -- just needs to decorate their parade unit, take a picture of it and submit their photo to us.”
Photos for the virtual Kiddie Parade can be submitted on the Bemidji Jaycees website . Submissions are due by Monday, June 28. Submissions will be put into a slideshow that will be shared by the Bemidji Jaycees.
The winner of the virtual Kiddie Parade will be the grand marshal for the Grand Parade on Sunday, July 4.
Bald Eagle Water Ski Show
The Bald Eagle Water Ski show will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3. For best viewing, the Jaycees recommend the waterfront in Library Park. Admission is free for the event.
A new activity, the coloring contest will take the place of the bike dig to ensure the wellbeing of children and families this year. For the event, kids can color the Bemidji Jaycees 77th Annual Water Carnival logo for a chance to win a bike.
Participants should download the coloring sheet and submit it through the link on the Bemidji Jaycees website , or pick up and drop off the coloring sheet at TruStar Federal Credit Union or Visit Bemidji at the Tourist Information Center.
Winners will be randomly picked in the age categories of 4-5 years, 6-7 years, 8-9 years and 10-12 years. Winners will be notified and the bikes can be picked up at the registration for the Kiddie Parade at the BSU Bangsberg parking lot from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 3.
Red, White and Boom fireworks display
The fireworks display, presented by Hill’s Plumbing and Heating, will be held at dusk, usually around 9:45 to 10:15 p.m., on Sunday, July 4, on the southwest end of Lake Bemidji. Cameron Park is not a good viewing location, as there are too many trees in the way, the Jaycee website said, but they can be seen well from Diamond Point Park, Library Park, Paul Bunyan Park and South Shore Park.
The organization is still looking for community members to help them with the exclusion zone perimeter for the display. Fisher said those with boats who are looking for the best seat in the house should contact the Jaycees for details.
“We strive for it to be bigger and better every year,” Fisher said.