TURTLE RIVER -- Bright skies and warm breezes were the perfect touch to an already gleeful day in the Turtle River community, as hundreds of smiling faces turned out to commemorate the 15th Annual Turtle River Day celebration.

The sunny weather was a welcome guest for many after rain dampened Turtle River Day festivities in past years.

“We’re having a great day today,” said Mary Jo Christenson, a committee member of Turtle River Day. “We have beautiful sunshine, and it looks like everyone is turning out for a good time.”

The day started early with the 8th annual 5k Fun Run/Walk/Turtle Crawl and a pancake breakfast at New Salem Lutheran Church. The breakfast received a large turnout, which resulted in food running out in its final hour.

But attendees had no need to worry about going hungry.

The buttery sweet aroma of kettle corn lingered in the air, alerting everyone to the multiple food vendors lined up outside the church. Food offerings included shaved ice, Jake’s Pizza, burritos and tacos from Pirate Burritos food truck and Filipino specialities from Golden Sun Bemidji.

Nearby arts and craft vendors sold clothing and jewelry, home and garden decor, wood carvings, locally made soaps and a variety of honeys and jellies.

Tom Whiting of Turtle River checks out a vintage car on Saturday at the 15th annual Turtle River Day celebration. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
Tom Whiting of Turtle River checks out a vintage car on Saturday at the 15th annual Turtle River Day celebration. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

“There’s a lot more vendors this year, so it’s been a good turnout for them too,” Christenson said.

The annual celebration offered activities for all ages including a tractor pedal pull and a bounce house for children, a battle of wits crossword puzzle contest with a $100 prize for the fastest solver, a car show and a parade.

The Turtle River Day parade garnered an increase in participants this year, Christenson said. Its grand marshals were Leroy and Dora Lee Souder, and 90-year-old Lee Coe continued his 15-year tradition of carrying the colors at the head of the parade.

As rain clouds remained out of sight, Christenson agreed that it was lucky No. 15.

“This year is a lot better, and the turnout is showing it,” Christenson said. “It’s the perfect day for Turtle River Day, and it’s one of our better ones that we’ve had in the last few years because the weather is cooperating.”