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Reuniting young and old: Bemidji's All School Reunion underway with plenty of weekend festivities

More than 1,200 people are expected to attend this weekend’s activities, which includes many individual class events at various homes and establishments. About 1,100 people pre-registered, and nearly 100 new ones came in on Thursday, with more expected on Friday.

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Tammi Verke, class of '86, registers for the All School Reunion on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — The All School Reunion committee was expecting some new registrations as the event got underway on Thursday. They didn’t expect nearly 100 of them, and they certainly did not expect a Class of 1939 graduate to walk in the door.

But that’s what happened at Bemidji High School as 101-year-old Pearl Pederson strolled in, albeit with the help of a walker.

“Boy, she’s spry,” said committee co-chair Char Blashill. “She was chatting away with everyone. We did not expect anyone from the 1930s. She was really a sweet lady.”

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Pearl Pederson, 101, will be among the attendees at this weekend's All School Reunion. She graduated from Bemidji High School in 1939.
Contributed / Char Blashill

Pearl’s son, Gary, brought her to BHS to register. After her photo was posted on the All School Reunion Facebook page, Gary wrote, “That’s my mom! If you went to J.W. Smith with me she was your school cook until 1967. After that, she cooked at Central until retiring...”

Pearl, who lives at Birch Haven Village in Bemidji, joins LaVerne Whelan as triple-digit graduates attending this weekend. Whelan has been chosen to serve as grand marshal of Saturday evening’s parade.

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Blashill, a 1990 BHS graduate, expects more than 1,200 people to attend this weekend’s activities, which include many individual class events at various homes and establishments. About 1,100 people pre-registered, and nearly 100 new ones came in on Thursday, with more expected on Friday.

The reunion is normally held every five years, but the pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 event.

“We have a really good group of people who have really worked hard to make this event happen,” said committee co-chair Kay Murphy, a 1975 BHS graduate. “It’s not a one-person job. It takes a really committed team, and we were (committed) to hang on this long and to bring it across the finish line.”

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Lavonne (Lamoureux) Blacken, class of '73, and her husband Keith, class of '72, register for the All School Reunion on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Friday’s activities included coffee and conversation with Bemidji school teachers and staff, rehearsal for the All School Choir Reunion and a historic downtown bus tour.

On Saturday, a BHS sports letter winners gathering will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the high school’s Lumberjack Room. The All School Choir Reunion will perform a concert at noon in the BHS Auditorium. A cornhole tournament will be held from noon to 5 p.m. at the Corner Bar and the Garden Grill and Pub in Nymore.

The parade will start at 6 p.m. from the Beltrami County Administration Building and head down Beltrami Avenue to Third Street.

The street dance, with two stages set up on Third Street, will run from 7 p.m. to midnight.

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Patti Gustin, a guest of Kermit Ketchum, class of '55, looks at a poster of the Bemidji High School over the years during an All School Reunion registration event on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at the high school.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

One of the bands that will play at the street dance is Freeway, a group that started as junior high kids in the basement of Mike Magnan’s house.

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Class of 1983 members Jake Dyrhaug, Ross Walters and Magnan will take the stage to play some of their popular songs, like “Come Sail Away” by Styx, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon and “The Breakup Song” by the Greg Kihn Band.

Free featured Magnan and Brian St. Martin on guitar, Walters on bass, Dyrhaug on keyboard and Jim Campbell on drums. St. Martin and Campbell won’t be able to be there on Saturday. Drummer Dave Saiger from Magnan’s current group, Crosswater, will round out the Freeway group. Crosswater will take the stage after Freeway.

Magnan said he’s looking forward to getting most of the old band together.

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Mary Conway, class of '65, visits with volunteer Sharon Taschner, class of '64, at an All School Reunion registration event on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“We’re trying not to get too serious about it,” said Magnan, who owns the Bemidji Dairy Queen. “We just want to have some fun and reminisce. Just seeing everybody else and visiting with old friends.”

Freeway used to play some songs outside The Melody Shop on Third Street, which was owned by Campbell’s parents, Don and Pat. They also played school dances, and at roller skating rinks in the Twin Cities that were owned by St. Martin’s uncle.

They mostly played cover songs, but had a few of their own, none of which will be on the set list for Saturday night

“We probably better not include the songs we had about the school principals,” Magnan said with a chuckle. “Brian wrote a couple, but we won’t be doing those.”

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Jim Aakus, class of '75, volunteers during an All School Reunion registration event on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Irv Creger, in front, class of '56, and Harry Creger, class of '60, visit during an All School Reunion registration event on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Sandy (Dahl) Pogue, center, and Tracy (Zachman) Wettschreck, right, class of '83, register for the All School Reunion on Thursday, July 21, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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