MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re rounding the clubhouse turn with our Goin’ To The Lake trips at WCCO, and this week we sent Liz Collin and Amelia Santaniello out to the Bemidji area!
Rain or shine, Minnesotans really embrace the outdoors. We stopped in at the shores of Lake Bemidji, where they are gearing up for this weekend’s Dragon Boat Races. (Also, we scoped out JJ’s Dockside, which is where Liz and Amelia will be broadcasting from live at 10 p.m. Thursday.)
The lake takes up about 6,400 acres and can get as deep as 76 feet in some parts. It’s a great fishing lake with all varieties including pan fish, bass, muskie, northern and walleye. It’s also great for cruising on a pontoon, hoping on a jet ski or tubing.
Right now, teams that will compete this weekend are out on the water getting in some practice time.
There is a lot that goes into this event, which takes place each summer. But it’s not the only draw here in Bemidji.
Paul Bunyan & Babe The Blue Ox
Two larger than life statues get a lot of attention here. Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, were both built back in 1937. Paul was actually modeled after the mayor of Bemidji at the time, Earl Bucklen. He’s 18 feet tall and weighs 2 and a half tons. Babe was first used in parades, but after some damage he found a permanent spot next to Paul. The two spend most of their time posing for pictures with tourists.
Amelia and Liz were lucky enough to meet up with Erik Hokuf, who founded AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji. What they’re doing with old planes from World War II is pretty amazing. Hokuf grew up in Bemidji, so it made sense that he would end up back there running his own business. This one gets planes from all over the world and restores them to their former glory. One of the planes there was used by the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first black air men to fight in WWII. That plane flies all over the country to share their story and was damaged and sent to Air Corps to be repaired. The toughest thing for them is finding parts for the planes, but it’s clear that Hokuf and his crew love what they do.
Bemidji Sculpture Walk
While you’re out and about in the city you can check out Bemidji’s Sculpture Walk. Several artists have created great pieces for people to check out as they walk around town. You can even get a map that shows you where to find all the art.
Paul Bunyan Sub Shop
All that walking is sure to stir up your appetite and Amelia and Liz found the perfect spot to stop: the Paul Bunyan Sub Shop. It’s been in Bemidji on and off since the late ’70s, but is just now making a comeback in a new location. Shelia and Todd Miller opened the shop in January and business is booming. They said their top sellers right now are the Oinker, which is a pulled pork sandwich, and the Paul, which has a little bit of everything. Sheila Miller said the big difference is that make everything they can in the shop each day.
Paul Bunyan Playhouse
The Paul Bunyan Playhouse has been putting on shows every summer for the past 66 years. This year, they’re tackling “9 To 5: The Musical,” under the new artistic director Jim Williams. The theater operates under a pretty strict schedule, pulling off give plays in three months. Each cast gets 10 days of rehearsal and then it’s showtime at the Historic Chief Theater. “9 To 5” is their last show this summer, but next year’s schedule is already floating out there, and it includes the musical version of “Legally Blonde.”
JJ’s Dockside is right next to the Sanford Center, where they hold all kinds of different events. The big draw here has got to be the big patio area. It’s got the perfect view of Lake Bemidji and there are biking and walking trails that run right alongside it. JJ’s just opened in 2016 and is a great place to stop in and grab a bite to eat or a drink.
Dragon Boat Race
A lot of people are in Bemidji from all over to be a part of the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, which runs through the weekend. Amelia and Liz grabbed some paddles and headed out with a team of rowers!