Loop the Lake canceled for June, will return 2021

A group rides over the Mississippi River trestle bridge during the Loop the Lake Festival on Saturday in Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
A group rides over the Mississippi River trestle bridge during the 2019 Loop the Lake Festival in Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- It may come as no surprise at this point that another event is canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

Especially when it comes to one of the biggest summer events Bemidji has to offer -- the annual 17-mile Loop the Lake Festival.

“Loop the Lake Festival is a family friendly event that celebrates bicycling and our town Bemidji. We like to show off to other people from other towns what we have here,” said Muriel Gilman, chair of the event. “Also, encouraging our local community and others to see our beautiful trails while offering them local food and entertainment at rest stops along the way.”

During a virtual meeting on March 25, the committee agreed that they would need to cancel this year's festival. Primarily, because the event relies heavily on their 40 local sponsors that take part in the event. But during this time of uncertainty quite a few have had to reduce costs and limit their employees, some have even had to close for the time being.

“I think everyone has been totally understanding considering the circumstances and that has gotten easier the more we have gone forward,” Gilman said. “We had a few calls at first wondering why we canceled so far in advance, but I don't think anyone will question us anymore.”


In its six-year history, Loop the Lake has helped the community in more ways than one. Not only does it offer participants a chance to get some exercise and explore Bemidji’s scenery, it also brings the community together. About 1,000 people participated in the ride in 2019.

“If we can get more people to jump on their bikes instead of their cars it can help our town with the air pollution and now of course, it helps people get out during this virus to be able to talk to some people outside, which people can't really do in their cars and it helps develop that sense of community as well,” Gilman continued.

Volunteer Coordinator Donna Palivec helps to manage about 130 event volunteers who have come together over the years from around the Bemidji area.

“We have a guy who lives in Walker and he rides his bike up here in the morning to volunteer and that is so cool,” Palivec said. “One thing that is really neat is that we have had people that have volunteered every single year. We have some groups like members of the Ski Patrol -- a group of Lutherans -- that come and help at a rest stop along the way and we also have the state park staff.”

The committee is already planning next year’s Loop the Lake Festival. In the meantime, they encourage people to still be active, go outside and participate in the 30 Days of Biking challenge, but to also keep safe and maintain good social distancing practices.

Hannah LaVigne is a Multimedia Reporter at Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and graduated from Bemidji State University in 2020. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @hannahlavigne. Contact her at (218) 333-9772 or
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