A Relay on the river: Relay of Voices group stops in Bemidji to learn about the Mississippi

Those in attendance at Thursday’s event are pictured from left: Jim Bensen, former Bemidji State University President; Brady Laudon, Visit Bemidji; Rita Albrecht, Mayor of Bemidji; Tom Styrbicki, Relay of Voices; Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, Relay of Voices; James Pike, A House Unbuilt board member; Ashley Stevens, Thrivent Financial; Peter Harrison, park manager at Lake Bemidji State Park; Jill Beardsley, Lake Bemidji Bed and Breakfast. (Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Relay of Voices made a stop at Paul Bunyan Park on Thursday to visit with local officials and members of the community with the goal of learning about the impact the Mississippi River has on the Bemidji area.

Relay of Voices is a program spearheaded by Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, executive and artistic director of A House Unbuilt based in Louisiana.

Styrbicki is working with community members in 104 towns along the 2,400-mile stretch of the Mississippi River to select people in each of those towns to visit with and shadow for a day.

Styrbicki explained the goal of the project as a desire to engage with local residents and see into their lives and what their relationship is with the Mississippi River.

“We also want to see how the landscape surrounding the river and its resources have been shaped by the human dimension,” Styrbicki told the Pioneer.


A group of people came together a little over a year ago here in Bemidji to start planning this specific event, but the whole project began almost three years ago.

The relay team started their journey on July 9 in Itasca Township at the Mississippi Headwaters and now are on their third stop in Bemidji. Community members met with the group Thursday afternoon to hear a presentation from Styrbicki and further discuss the impacts of the Mississippi River within the region.

The relay aspect of the project is possible with the assistance of a relay team made up of Victoria and her husband, Tom Styrbicki, support staff and regional volunteers in each community. Anyone in the region is welcome to join the relay team in any way they wish--walk, run, bike or paddle, for whatever distance they are able to.

The teams next stop will be in Bena, Minn. on Saturday, July 13, and continue on south from there with a final destination at the mouth of the Mississippi in Louisiana in November.

More information can be found at along with a full list of locations.

Annalise is the editor and a photographer at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a Mass Communication graduate from Bemidji State University. Her favorite pastime is exploring the great outdoors and capturing its natural beauty on camera. Contact Annalise at (218) 333-9796, (218) 358-1990 or
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