BEMIDJI -- The mass migration of people from all over the world to the shores of Lake Bemidji culminated on Friday when hundreds of students crammed a few of their belongings into the dorms at Bemidji State for their upcoming year on campus.

In a university of 5,000-plus students, more than 1,100 live in the school’s dormitories. Of that number, nearly 650 are first-year students. And, as all those students unloaded their suitcases and miniature fridges for the year ahead, plenty of parents, grandparents, student athletes and residential assistants swarmed around to help empty the car trunks and trailers.

In addition to the actual move-in process, there were a slew of other events scheduled for the new arrivals throughout the day. One of the more ceremonial events planned was convocation, a processional where the students pass under the alumni arch to formally kick off the year.

“It’s an opportunity for us to set the tone with our students and talk to them about the fact that we’re here to help them be successful,” BSU President Faith Hensrud said. “We want them to focus on their studies, of course, but also (on) the experiences they’re going to have, the new beginnings, the new relationships, the friendships that are going to last a lifetime….”

At 10 a.m. on Friday, though, all those additional events might as well have been light-years ahead for the families buzzing around the residential dorms, preoccupied with getting their loved ones settled.

The line of bulging carts waiting for the elevator in Tamarack Hall stretched around the first floor of the eleven-story building and out the door. Some students decided to take the stairs to save time, even if their designated helpers weren’t quite up to the task.

“Eleven floors -- with bags! Are you kidding me?” one woman asked while helping a student move into Tamarack Hall. “I’m in shape but not that kind of shape.”

Students carry items to the stairs in Tamarack Hall during move-in day at BSU on Friday. (Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer)
Students carry items to the stairs in Tamarack Hall during move-in day at BSU on Friday. (Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer)

Over at Oak Hall, Floyd Baird decided to escape the chaos of the traffic-filled dorms and found a picnic table in a shaded area of the grass instead. He had helped his granddaughter move in, but, by mid-morning, she was already down to the task of getting the room arranged the way she wanted it.

Baird spends his summers on Cass Lake and so he’ll get to stay in touch with his granddaughter until he leaves in October. Even after he leaves, though, he knows she will still have a strong support system nearby.

“There’s a lot of family up here,” Baird said. “If you’re running into problems, there’s always a good shoulder to go cry on.”

As one of the actual students moving into Oak Hall, Mark Wilcox traveled roughly two and a half hours from Casselton, N.D., for his freshman year at BSU. While he likes the location of the school, he also chose it because it was where his great-grandfather once studied. Wilcox can’t remember how many years ago it would have been when his great-grandfather was walking around campus. Nonetheless, it undoubtedly looked a lot different than it did on Friday during the start of Wilcox’s own academic experience.

“The school was a different name when he went here, so it was a while ago,” Wilcox said.