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Let’s take a Loop: Loop the Lake returns this weekend

Babe Mortenson receives a high-five as she crosses the finish line at the Sanford Center at the Loop the Lake Festival in June 2017 in Bemidji. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- Take in the Minnesotan wildlife this Saturday on two wheels as the Bike Bemidji: Loop the Lake Festival returns.

More than 1,000 riders are expected to take part in this year’s Loop, as the event has steadily increased since the first ride in 2014 with 355 participants.

The ride starts at the Sanford Center between 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. for the 17-mile loop around Lake Bemidji. It is not one continuous trip however, as stops along the way will feature music by local artists such as The Lumberjack Trio, The Big Bass Ramblers and Wooden Nichols, as well as food vendors and photo opportunities at Paul and Babe, along with other fun activities at the designated rest stops.

“It’s really become a community event,” said Muriel Gilman, chairwoman of the steering committee for Loop the Lake. Without the 53 sponsors or the nearly 100 volunteers helping put on the event, it wouldn’t be able to happen, organizers said. It’s about getting together and getting outside, whether you’re 5 or 91, they said.

While many riders choose to pre-register, on-site registration costs are $35 for a single rider, and $50 for two and a foursome is $100. Registered riders may pick up their packets on Friday, June 15, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Watermark Art Center, 505 Bemidji Ave. N, Bemidji.

And the events for the festival actually start Friday night, as Watermark and Bike Bemidji will hold the third annual Spinning Spokes-Art on the Go at the center from 4 to 7 p.m. It is a free bike decorating event held in conjunction with the Loop the Lake. Children ages 13 and younger can decorate their bike and helmet the evening before the Loop. Watermark will provide all decorations with youths only required to bring their bike and helmet.

On Saturday, breakfast items such as bagels, coffee, muffins, and bananas will start the riders off at the Sanford Event Center and hold them until their stop at Ruttger's, which is providing their own food for the cyclists.

Points of interest on the ride, organizers said, include the opportunity to see Bemidji wildlife such as eagles and eaglets, snapping turtles laying eggs, lady slippers, and loons among other natural Minnesotan wilderness.

And on Wednesday, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office issued a release alerting residents and motorists to be on the lookout for the Loopers on Saturday.

“This is a family ride, not a race and the course includes local roads as well as trails circling Lake Bemidji,” the release said.

The Loop the Lake includes Birchmont Drive from BSU to Northwoods Access/Landing, Bemidji Avenue from Northwoods Access to Birchmont Beach Road, and from Birchmont Beach Road to the entrance of Lake Bemidji State Park. Birchmont Beach Road will be closed for eastbound traffic from 8 a.m. to noon from Bemidji Avenue to Country Club Road, with traffic detouring north on Bemidji Road to Sumac Road to Country Club Road. Westbound traffic on Birchmont Beach Road will not be detoured.

On the east side of Lake Bemidji the bicyclists will be using the Paul Bunyan Trail and are required to stop at each road crossing but motorists are urged to drive with heightened caution when crossing the trail.

The event will end where is started, at the Sanford Center on the south shore of Lake Bemidji, with more food options and live music. In the event of severe weather, officials will determine at 5:30 a.m. Saturday whether to delay the event two hours or cancel it all together in the interest of safety. If the event is cancelled, no refunds will be given and it will not be rescheduled.

There will be a block party from noon to 8 p.m. downtown on America Avenue sponsored by Bemidji Brewing and KBXE.

Cook is a summer reporting intern for the Pioneer.