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Fish and fun: Thousands turn out for Paul Bunyan Communications' annual celebration

Boy scout Jonathan Wood carries a tray of food for Julie Ibanez at the Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative Celebration on Wednesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 5
Garrett Deal, 9, checks out his face painting in a mirror on Wednesday at the Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative Celebration. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 5
Deanna Black, right, hands out tackle boxes with others from Paul Bunyan Communications at the Cooperative Celebration on Wednesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 5
Known Only Locally performs on Wednesday at the Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative Celebration. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 5
Hundreds of people make their way through lines at the Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative Celebration on Wednesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)5 / 5

BEMIDJI—There were plenty of hands working behind the scenes on Wednesday at Paul Bunyan Communications' annual Cooperative Celebration.

The annual free event routinely draws between 6,500 to 7,500 people throughout the region for a combination of food, music, door prizes and children's activities. And in spite of the rainy spring weather this year, people still turned out in droves to both host and enjoy the event.

Brian Bissonette, marketing supervisor for Paul Bunyan Communications, said Wednesday was only the second time in nearly 20 years it has rained at the event. And, they still had a good turnout the last time it rained, with nearly 5,200 people attending.

"Back in 2012, it rained the whole time," Bissonette said. "We anticipate a little less crowd because of the weather, but (it's) still a pretty significant turnout."

Bissonette said there were roughly 130 employees from Paul Bunyan Communications working at the event. In addition to that, though, there was a small army of others from a handful of organizations throughout town who also showed up to help make it a success.

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Wood was one of a handful of Boy Scouts who were helping people carry their food from the serving lines to the dining tent. It is the second year he's helped with the event, which helps him work toward his goals.

"Also, it's just a lot of fun to do this," Wood said.

In tent off to the side, a group of Bemidji firefighters were frying the walleye. A slew of their family members also showed up to help with the event.

Paul Bunyan Communications pays the department for its work, which goes to the department's relief association, comprised of the paid, on-call firefighters. They've used the proceeds for a number of different needs throughout the years. They even saved up the proceeds from several years to help purchase "Rescue 1," one of the vehicle's in the department's fleet.

The department was working on eight different fryers, and they had two others they could fire up if needed.

"We can do anywhere between 25 and 35 fillets per fryer, so we can crank them out," said Gordon Beighley, a captain with the Bemidji Fire Department.

The Bemidji High School boys hockey team also pitched in to help with the event.

"Our whole team—they've been doing shifts the last couple days prepping, and now here helping out," new head coach Pete Stahnke said. "It's really good for our boosters."

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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