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PIONEER PERSPECTIVES: Bemidji is a unique place with something for everyone

I know that Bemidji isn’t perfect, and I completely understand why this town isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I think it’s important for those of us who live here to embrace all the great things Bemidji has to offer.

Madelyn Haasken.jpg
Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Pioneer.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Ever since I moved to Bemidji in 2016 to attend Bemidji State, most of my fellow college friends were itching to leave town and never look back.

Before I even had enough time to settle into my dorm room, I was already hearing negative reviews of Bemidji from several of my new classmates. They would complain about how it's just a boring small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I didn’t really understand why people were so critical. Right from the get-go, I found that there were plenty of things to do — at least, Bemidji had much more appeal than the tiny town of Aitkin where I grew up.

Still, the mindset of my peers rubbed off on me, and I believed that starting my post-college life in Bemidji was not an option. I felt that I would be seen as a washed-up BSU alum if I didn’t move to a big city after college.

So when I graduated in 2020, I had to make the choice to either stay in Bemidji or venture out into the great unknown. I took the easy route and stayed in Bemidji, unsure at the time if it was the right decision. Now, almost three years later, I still hear the occasional "So when are you going to get out of Bemidji?"

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I think about that question a lot.

Although I'm not sure if I'll live here until my dying day, I've fallen in love with this community and I’m continually discovering all that Bemidji has to offer as the years go by. In my opinion, Bemidjians have the unique opportunity to enjoy the small-town experience, without the feeling of extreme boredom and isolation that often comes with it.

I'm an introvert, but I also like to occasionally go out in public and do fun things. Bemidji offers me the best of both worlds, and I think that’s a big part of why I’ve stuck around since college.

When I'm craving solitude, I can read at a quiet coffee shop or take a relaxing walk at Lake Bemidji State Park, and when I'm looking for something exciting to do I can enjoy events like the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival or attend concerts and hockey games at the Sanford Center.

But Bemidji's festivities don't end there — it's a town rich with music, art, food and culture. To offer some proof for this statement, the town was recently named in Smithsonian Magazine’s “The 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2022.”

The article mentions Bemidji's downtown shops, popular eateries and art workshops, as well as events like the Anishinaabe Art Festival, Watermark Art Festival, Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival and programs within the Concordia Language Villages. It also notes Bemidji's appeal for those who love the outdoors, as plenty of lakes, snowmobile trails and cross-country ski trails can be found in the area.

And those things are just the tip of the Bemidji iceberg. If you’re willing to look, you’ll find that this area is filled to the brim with events, activities and experiences. And although Bemidji was named one of the best small towns to visit, I’d argue that it's an even better place to live.

I know that Bemidji isn’t perfect, and I completely understand why this town isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I think it’s important for those of us who live here to embrace all the great things Bemidji has to offer. Whether people are here for a week, a decade or a lifetime, I think Bemidji is a truly unique place that has something for everyone.

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There’s a quote by Taisen Deshimaru that goes, “If you are not happy here and now, you never will be.”

And you know what, I’m pretty darn happy here in Bemidji.

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Pioneer. Readers can reach her at (218) 333-9772 or mhaasken@bemidjipioneer.com.

Related Topics: BEMIDJI
Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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