I moved to Bemidji an entire decade ago in August 2009.
Bright-eyed nursing students (see how that turned out), a close friend and I moved 100 miles to the west. A whole lot has changed here in Bemidji, and for me personally, in those 10 years.
And I mean more than the permanent address on my driver’s license and the degree I was chasing.
For instance, I’ve lived here long enough to have rented a movie from Blockbuster after getting ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. The strip mall that housed the Blockbuster, one of the last in the country, is now a CVS. And I also could have rented that movie from a guy who is now my fiancé.
In October 2009, the Sanford Center was still being built and attending Bemidji State hockey games was just a short walk from my dorm in Tamarack Hall. (That north-facing view from the ninth floor was probably the best I’ll ever live with.)
A year later, the Sanford Center opened as the BREC. The Bemidji Regional Events Center eventually became the Sanford Center. Since then, the Bemidji South Shore has been developed with a new beach area, hotels and apartment buildings with more to come.
Bemidji’s downtown has fluctuated in the past decade, but has always maintained its local charm. My favorite boutique, Yellow Umbrella, was also born into Bemidji in 2009, and recently expanded. The Watermark Art Center, formerly Bemidji Community Art Center, moved from its past home in the Carnegie Library and opened a $3 million dollar location across the street in 2017.
The Carnegie Library has undergone its own transformation with its restoration coming to completion in August after years of fundraising. The interior and exterior of the building was restored, along with the windows and modernizing the HVAC system.
One of my favorite celebrations in Bemidji is the First City of Lights, with the Night We Light event set this year for Friday, Nov. 29. Hosted by the Bemidji Jaycees, the colorful occasion has continued to grow along with the rest of Bemidji. The Jaycees recently announced that lights will now be added to Library Park along with an illuminated archway.
In my full decade here in Bemidji, with the majority of it spent working at the Bemidji Pioneer, I’ve grown to know this place better than my hometown on the Iron Range. I’m aware of who the City Council and School Board members are. I’m cognizant of major, and minor, projects going on in the area. An ALDI store is coming to town, have you heard?
And I’ve learned a lot, too. I now know my public school education, before moving to Bemidji, failed to teach me accuracies of Native American history, if they touched on the topic at all. I know that I am not living in the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, but on the land of the Ojibwe people.
I’m in the know mostly because of the job I’m honored to do everyday. I get to capture town hall meetings, local sporting events and celebrations of people and culture. And for that, I am grateful to have spent the last decade in a growing community that continues to inspire and teach me.