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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: A Water Carnival for everyone

When organizers moved the annual Water Carnival festival from near Paul and Babe downtown to the Sanford Center because of park reconstruction, there were immediate cries of foul, as many thought the downtown business district was being left behind.

Now, after two years at the Sanford Center parking lot, the Water Carnival is looking to return to downtown. Ironically, it needs to move because of construction -- the ongoing development of the South Shore.

And because of the aforementioned park work, the area around Paul and Babe is not suitable. So, where to go?

The Bemidji Jaycees, the volunteer service club organizing the Water Festival, then looked to the past for an answer, they said. In 1995, the Water Carnival was smack in the downtown, using Fourth Street as a staging area for events.

So, last Tuesday, the Jaycees announced the 73rd Water Festival would return downtown, scheduled for June 29 to July 4 along Fourth Street Northwest between America Avenue and Bemidji Avenue.

Wouldn’t you know it, there were immediate cries of foul, as many thought the downtown business district couldn’t handle the six-day influx of people and cars. Parking is an issue, as is safety. City Hall received some complaints, as did others. Were the downtown business owners consulted before the location selection? Were downtown residents?

Smartly, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance is taking the lead in trying to reach a solution that fits all. They are conducting a survey of downtown business owners to gather their thoughts on their preferred location, for this year, as well as into the the future.

As stated before, the Sanford Center location is out, at least for this year, and the revamped park near Paul and Babe can’t accommodate the event, so where do you go? The festival should be downtown, near Lake Bemidji, of course. It’s the Water Carnival, after all?

“We care deeply about the downtown businesses, and I’ve gone to some of the owners since the press conference,” Jaycees President Josh Peterson told Pioneer reporter Matthew Liedke.

“I’ve spoken with them one-on-one and have tried to find a way to make things work out for the best for both of us. We want to all work together and make it the best Fourth of July celebration that we possibly can.”


The BDA’s survey is due back from businesses by Wednesday, and the City Council is expected to discuss the matter at its Feb. 21 meeting. We hope for an outcome that is amicable to most, knowing full well, you won’t please all of the people all of the time.