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Sharing stories of people
who chose Bemidji
as their town

Four Way Stops-we have a few

Posted: May 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Downtown Bemidji is full of four way stops. Not just one or two, rather many many.  With this being said, it has always surprised me that people do not seem to know the rules for approaching a four way stop. Drivers hesitate or give up the right of way, while others charge ahead out of turn without care for the rules or safety. When you add pedestrians into the mix, you may as well forget about the rules, and just insert confusion instead.

When my husband and I moved here in the Summer of 1997, the four way stops were one of the first things I noticed.  Have I mentioned that there’s many many of them? After seeing how many I would be dealing with on a daily basis, I quickly opted to review the four way stop rules.  Since I seem to be in the minority here, I will take the time to post the four way stop rules here (summary version)

Writing note: I was going to post this last week.  I started reviewing the rules and was looking for a summary to post through the DMV site etc.  One of the first things I came across was this comedic version.  I have not been able to get that version out of my head, nor can I personally write anything quite as good.  So I have decided to post Jim Loy ‘s version and then link the DMV / MN driving rules.  Keep reading-it’s so funny because it is so true.

Four-Way Stops (Simplified)

Copyright 1996, Jim Loy

The four-way stop is a drivers’ IQ test, that many drivers fail. It would seem to be a maneuver of approximately Blue-Angel caliber. But, it is really very simple, if you follow these few rules.

Case I – one car

You are the only one at the intersection. This is the simplest case. First you stop [complete stop (in or out of the cross-walk), rolling stop, 25 mph stop, etc.], then you have only five options:

1. Go.
2. Hesitate, then go.
3. Wait for 3 more cars to come along.
4. Wait for 2 more cars.
5. Wait for 1 more car.

A true Driver (with a capital “D”, master of four-way stops) would choose option #3. After all, they do call this a four-way stop. Most drivers modify option #3 by adding a time limit, like 30 seconds: “Wait for 3 cars or 30 seconds, whichever comes first.” This 30-second wait has degenerated into option #2, “Hesitate, then go.”

Case II – 2 cars

There are a few permutations here:

1. You got there first. See below, “Complication #3, who got there first?” In this situation, just go, unless you are a disgustingly polite driver (Complication #1).

2. He or she is on your right and you’re turning right. Go.

3. He or she is on your right and you’re not turning right. Wait.

4. He or she is straight ahead; and he or she is going straight or turning right; and you’re going straight or turning right. Go.

5. He or she is straight ahead and he or she is turning left or you’re turning left. Wait.

6. He or she is on your left and he or she is turning right. Go.

7. He or she is on your left and he or she is not turning right. Wait.

Case III – 3 cars

If it’s your turn, go. If not, try to imagine what can go wrong if you do go, and then go if you didn’t just imagine your own death. Actually, this case is a simplification of case IV – 4 cars.

Case IV – 4 cars

There are hundreds of permutations here. But, actually, it’s pretty simple. Go it it’s your turn, or if you’re turning right and nobody else is headed for that lane.

Complication #1 – the disgustingly polite driver

A disgustingly polite driver will wait for you even though you both know that it is his or her turn to go. I can imagine him or her stopping for a child, and waving the child into the path of a speeding semi. Such politeness confuses any driving situation. It can hopelessly muddle a four-way stop situation, unless you follow this advice: Flip him or her the appropriate salute, and go.

Complication #2 – which way will they turn?

Cases II through IV depend upon which way the other drivers are turning. Their turn signals may offer a clue:

1. Some people do not signaling
2. Some people will turn the same way that they are signaling
3. Some people will not turn the same way that they are signaling

There are six principles which will help you sort these out:

1. You can legally assume that people will turn the same way that they are signaling, or that they are not turning when they are not signaling.

2. You can legally ram them if they are lying.

3. No witness will stick around to back up your story about whether or not anybody signaled.

4. Drivers (capital “D”) do not signal.

5. drivers (small “d”) do not signal.

6. All other drivers signal.

Complication #3 – who got there first?

“Who” got there first, “what” got there second, “I don’t know” got there third. Sorry, that was merely an allusion. In theory, a four-way stop is simple. The cars stopped in a certain order, and they go in the same order. In reality:

1. Some people don’t exactly stop. So, when did they arrive at the four-way stop?

2. Some people stop one or two car-lengths behind the stop sign. When did they arrive at the four-way stop?

3. Sometimes two cars really do stop simultaneously.

4. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first, and driver B thinks that driver A got there first. This is a simplification of the next situation.

5. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first. Driver B thinks that driver C got there first. And driver C thinks that driver A got there first. From experience, I would say that this, along with various 4-car permutations, is a very common situation.

6. At least one driver has no clue. This has probably happened before he reached the four-way stop.

So, when there’s doubt about who got there first, who should go first? Here’s a handy rule: “I go first, you go second, everyone else hesitates.” My car is the one with the dents in each door.

Complication #4 – pedestrians

Any of the above situations can be further complicated by the intrusion of any number of pedestrians. You won’t see them lining up and going one at a time. They just keep walking right on through the intersection, dodging cars. While pedestrians slow down the normal clockwork of the four-way stop, they also introduce a logical puzzle to the situation. If you are about to go, and a pedestrian walks in front of you, how does that affect the order of who goes when? Do you get to go first once the pedestrian is out of your way? Should all the other cars wait for you? Or, have you lost your place and must wait for 3 more cars to go. This guideline should help: “If you have to wait for a pedestrian, you are now a time-bomb waiting to go off. To minimize the loss of life, you should be allowed to go first.”

Complication #5 – the four-way stop starburst maneuver

This is when all four cars go at once. All four cars stop, nearly touching, nose to fender. And, nobody can go forward. The driver who backs up loses all respect from his or her family. Besides, the next four cars have gone forward by now. So no one can back up, if he or she wanted to. The four-way stop has now achieved critical mass. The only solution is for one car to be removed, sideways, by a fork-lift. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never seen this done. I understand this is very popular in Europe, at all kinds of intersections.

Four-way stop theory

Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity says, among other things, that two observers, travelling at different speeds, cannot agree on when something happened. In fact observer A may say that event X occurred before event Y, while observer B may say that event Y happened first. And both observers are right. This leads to the “four-way stop paradox.”

A theory that seems to have even more to say about four-way stops is Natural Selection.

Dear Bemidji drivers, it is time to figure this out.  You deal with these signs daily if you are downtown.  Denial is only getting people frustrated at you.  I know the reason you sit and wait for the other person to go (even though you clearly are in the right of way) it is because you don’t know the rules!  Well I have cleared that up for you now.  Proceed (now that you know how).

What the MN Drivers Manual states:

Right of Way and Yielding:
Right-of-way and yielding laws help traffic flow smoothly and safely.
They are based on courtesy and common sense. Violation of these
laws is a leading cause of traffic crashes.

• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, and
there is no traffic light or signal, the driver of the vehicle on the
left must yield to the vehicle on the right.
• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time,
and all-way stop signs or flashing red traffic lights control
the intersection, the driver on the left must yield right of way
to the driver on the right.
• A driver who wishes to make a left turn must yield to vehicles
approaching from the opposite direction when these vehicles are
in the intersection or are near enough to pose the risk of a crash.
• When a green arrow signal indicates that a vehicle may enter an
intersection to make a left turn, the driver must yield to other
vehicles or pedestrians already within the intersection. After
yielding, the driver may continue in the direction of the arrow.
• When two vehicles approach an uncontrolled “T” intersection, the
driver of the vehicle that is turning must yield to all cross traffic.
• When approaching a public road from a private road or driveway,
you must stop and yield to pedestrians and traffic.
• Drivers in the right lane of traffic must yield right of way to transit
and metro mobility buses attempting to merge from a bus stop
or shoulder.
• When a funeral procession identifies itself through use of headlights
or hazard warning lights, you must yield to the entire procession.

To review all of your driving rules and regulations you can find the manual HERE

Jon H.

Posted: May 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »
Photography by: Julie Saari
Jon H.
Back Alley – Downtown Bemidji
April 2011

Always looking for an adventure Jon Heller can be found on his bike or on the road exploring and photographing his experiences.  Jon takes as many photos for friends as he does for assignments.  A style unique to Bemidji Jon Heller has a flair for photography not usually seen in a town our size.  One of the first people to contact me after I started This is my town: Bemidji, Jon and I have become friends and he has helped me on numerous occasions get a shot I can’t, or to loan me equipment I could only dream of using much less have.  You have seen some of Jon’s work on the Facebook page in the Where the Heck? pics as well as the profile photos as well.

Some of you know him, but for the rest let me introduce you to Jon Heller:

A big part of my story is pretty much the same as everyone else that grew up in Bemidji. Born and raised in the Bemidji area but with the desire to travel away from here. I would read stacks of “outside” magazines dreaming about all the places I wanted to visit without knowing how I could make it happen.

Then in 1993 on a family vacation to Glacier National Park everything changed when my Dad showed me how to use his old Nikon FE camera. Once those first rolls of Kodachrome  came back I was hooked, finally an art form that let me record what I saw in the world the way that I saw it. On top of it all it was easy or at least I thought so after seeing those first slides. From that point on I devoured every magazine, book and behind the scenes video I could get my hands on which is when I started to realize how much more there was to getting successful images. It doesn’t even matter what kind of photos I’m shooting, a lot of photographers only shoot one thing but I don’t really care what I point my camera at as long as it inspires or moves me in some way. I have lived in Montana, Wyoming, Florida and California and traveled to all the places in between but I keep ending up in Bemidji.

Hours after graduating from high school I was on the road back to Montana to attend photography school for the summer. By this point my main direction was in photographing people, still loving it all  I just shot what ever I could. On top of that I was on my own, exploring the mountains around Missoula.  However, by the time the program was done I was ready to come back to Bemidji.  I spent the next few years working odd jobs while trying to build a portfolio as good as the images I saw in magazines with little success, the ideas were there but I was still missing something. Then. I got hired to assist a new commercial photographer in Bemidji who showed me how much work and gear went into getting those shots I was trying to emulate.  He had all the gear  and would let me borrow it for my own shoots. That’s when my images started to improve by leaps and bounds.

I have paid my photographic dues over the years shooting baby, family and wedding photos to the point where those are the only things I refuse to shoot. Mostly due to the fact that I was never very good at those kinds of shoots but they managed to pay for the gear that let my work evolve into what it is today.  I do love photographing people though, anything from sports to environmental portraits. For my personal projects I tend to be drawn to people that I find interesting on some level usually through what they do for work or their hobbies. I really enjoy trying to create images of artists from other mediums.

I’m at a place right now where my photos are getting published on a fairly regular basis and it still doesn’t get old seeing my images on the cover of magazines. I still haven’t picked just one direction to go in, one day I might be shooting a orchestra conductor the next I might be dangling from a rope shooting a rock climber, all things I have actually shot in Bemidji.

That’s the great thing about Bemidji is that even though it would be considered by most a small town things are constantly changing and evolving around here to the point where there is always something new to shoot. I think that is why I have such a hard time choosing a direction with my photography and sticking to it.  At the same time I am constantly brow beaten by the small town mentality around here. People automatically assuming that some one who claims to be a photographer and doesn’t run a portrait studio is creepy and should be avoided (mostly because they have seen too many made for TV movies). Though a lot of that has died down since I started shooting for a local woman’s magazine.
The last two or three years though have really been amazing, constantly shooting something and actually having people volunteer to be in my images.  Three years agoy works improved immensely when I went digital  and was really able to experiment with lighting. I quickly converting from a natural light only type of a shooter to an available light shooter, and by that I mean any light that is available. I will drag enough lighting equipment out to a shoot that it looks like I could be shooting for Rolling Stone when I am probably shooting something as a favor to a friend or a portfolio piece for myself.
Through all of my travels over the years and even the places I have only dreamed of visiting I love having Bemidji as my home base. With all my odd ball friends (term of endearment) that have supported my photography over the years usually by being the subject matter and the area locations that have served as the backdrop for my images this place is home. I am a 31 year old Bemidji local and it has taken most of those 31 years to realize how great of a thing that actually is.
Jon’s Photo Shoot can be seen HERE
Photos by Julie Saari
Examples of Jon’s photography can be seen HERE

Jon’s links:
Photo Blog
Adventure Bum

What is your favorite thing about Bemidji in the Summer?

Posted: July 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Chase Wroe

“Late night bike rides with good folks!”

Ashleigh Buck

“Biking around the lake”

Deacon Brandt

“Taking a walk in the country”

Stephen Bucher & Kendra Washington

“Going on walks”

Mike Mohler

“Warm Weather”

Sarah & Finny Karl

“Riding bike with Finn”

“Eating strawberries and
raspberries and blackberries
from Grandpa’s house.”

Elly, Sanya, & Maryn Swanson

“Going to the lake”

From the Facebook Page:

(I copied and pasted)

Melany L. Graham-Rundell

Melany L. Graham-Rundell

camping with family.

Deborah A Davis

Deborah A Davis

I love the water. The lakes MOVE in the summer. We are surrounded by kinetic waters. In winter it seems still as tombstones. Give me whitecaps and dancing waves.

Melissa Daigle Briggs

Melissa Daigle Briggs

Can’t wait to see how people manage to narrow it down! There are so many great things about summer in Bemidji.

Gary Lamon

Gary Lamon

Campfires and fishing.

Wendy Kloeppner

Wendy Kloeppner

Bingo at the Jaycees Waterfront Carnival! What a blast!

Nichole Lord- Powers

Nichole Lord- Powers

Water Carnival, Parade, Fireworks!!! Bemidji is the best place to be to celebrate the 4th!!

Melissa Daigle Briggs

Melissa Daigle Briggs

‎”the sounds.” wind in leaves. lapping waves. loons. thunder. a fishing line hitting the water. frogs. crackling camp fires. unseen people’s voices while boating.

Heather Sande

Heather Sande

The Beauty. Very proud to live here in beautiful Bemidji, Minnesota!

Sandi Erickson

Sandi Erickson

I no longer live close to Bemidji but being raised there I sure miss the fair and Water Carnival and really miss the friendly people. I do get chances to visit as some of my family are still there.

Rebecca Diffley

Rebecca Diffley

Waking up to the smell of fresh cut hay in the morning, as my dad would be cutting the field south of our house.
Maarit Miller

Maarit Miller

Sitting on the end of the dock, listening to waves hit the shore.

Katherine Jones

Katherine Jones

it’s all about the water: waves lapping at the shore. walking on the beach. watching my kiddos swim.

Deborah Brouse Brown

Deborah Brouse Brown

Visiting my Auntie Marion!

Barbara Tetreau Grotting

Barbara Tetreau Grotting

Water – the sound of waves hitting the shore.

Laura Peters Mumm

Laura Peters Mumm

I love the BSU campus in the summer (and other seasons)… quiet now, but a “home” of sorts for me. I also love coming back to visit and staying at the B & B Villa Calma! Going there in Aug.!! Can’t wait…

Matthew Breuer

Matthew Breuer

Fishing… is there anything else?
Please remember to leave a comment.
What is your favorite thing about Bemidji in the Summer?

Beavers Hit The Streets

Posted: June 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Bemidji Sculpture Walk.

The sculpture painting project was made possible by a grant Catie Belleveau wrote to the George W. Neilson foundation. They funded our purchase of the 10 beaver blanks that local two dimensional artists have enhanced with their unique painting styles. These sculptures will reside on the Sculpture Walk for a year and be auctioned next spring to the highest bidding individual or business who will have them grace their locations. The proceeds will be used to enhance the Sculpture Walk and 30% of the auction price will be paid to the artist who painted the beaver.

The image of the beaver was chosen by a community survey that was promoted through local media and the artist were selected by committee judging. The blanks were created by a company in Chicago called Cow Painters. We originally ordered 10 blanks but because of a delay of shipment they sent us a extra blank as a consolation. Nine beavers will be installed throughout Bemidji today with the tenth beaver coming soon, being delayed because of a death in the artists family. We have not yet determined the fate of the 11th blank beaver.

We would like to thank our down town business sponsors, The Sculpture Walk Committee, participating artists and George W. Neilson whom we are dedicating this years Sculpture Walk to – because of his foresight and philanthropy in enhancing the lives of the people in our community for many years.

Facilitation and installation are being preformed by Mitch Blessing and Al Belleveau.


Information provided by Al Belleveau

Hello, my name is Crinkle.

Linda Brown

N 47° 28.301’ , W094° 53. 024 (City Hall)

I got that name because I spend a lot of time in the water and I get all crinkly. My best friend is Walter a Koi Fish who lives at The Wild Hare. I am enjoying summer in Bemidji after being rescued from the Evil Chain Smoking Beaver Trapper who resides 2

nd and Minnesota. While enjoying my new found freedom I have been able to check things out around here and there is a lovely tree that I am chomping at the bit for. I really want to go gnaw on it and use its parts in a dam I have been working on. This tree is located by River Wood Bank. There is yet another tree I have been eyeing on the corner of 4th and Minnesota but I don’t thing I can reach it. I hope you will enjoy spending time with me and all the others on Bemidji’s Sculpture walk.

Days End

MaryTherese Peterson 

N 47° 28.236’ , W094° 52. 955 (3rd and Minnesota)

As the sunsets in our beautiful land,

where the Mississippi is born,

the beaver stands

as the sad clown who sees

suffering at the hands of the humans

as their needs to consume

swirls in the red sea at the end of this river

May all life forms find protection

let the Earth heal and grow!

“Home Sweet Home”

Kathy Gustafson

N 47° 28.228’ , W094° 52. 890 (3rd and Beltrami)

This sculpture was painted to draw attention to the beavers, which are the original community builders. They create the pond where they can live, build a lodge, and raise their young, and at the same time, create a place where other animals can live and flourish as well. In my work we see them sharing their living space with several fish, a turtle, and a dragonfly. It also has several aspen leaves, which represent the beaver’s favorite food (a quickly renewed resource), and petroglyph images which represent the long history of association between these animals and humans. “Busy as a beaver” has become a cliché phrase, but in regards to the beaver, it is completely true!

“Wildlife Painting”

Alice Blessing

N 47° 28.227’ , W094° 52. 865 (3rd and Beltrami Ave.)

This lake scene was painted by Alice Blessing using her fingers instead of paintbrushes. The resulting marks manifest in a surprising style that resembles pointillism and the impressionistic works of Claude Monet. The artist hopes that this colorful work reminds you to protect our lakes and wildlife: Don’t pollute! Don’t poach!


Jason Elliott Clark

N  47° 28.239’, W094° 52.792 (3rd and Bemidji Ave)

Using an x-ray style I have chosen to represent both the interior and exterior aspects on this beaver form, illustrating anatomical features ranging from bones, tendons, muscles, and nerves to unborn kits and even dietary contents within the stomach. These features are represented through the use of a bold formline and stylized or symbolic markings.


Deborah A Davis

N 47°28.290’,W094° 52.880 (4th and Beltrami)

Gaea means Mother Earth and God is Gracious

That the fertile earth itself is female, nurturing mankind is a belief that crosses culture, time and borders. Gaea means Mother Earth. It also means “God is Gracious,” and is one of the 52 feminine aspects of God in the Christian Bible. Gaea in mythology was a female Titan. If we could embrace the strength of womaness, celebrate it, we would become the people we are meant to be: nurturing, loving, whole.

on a side note: While painting this, the gulf oil disaster occurred… and I couldn’t help thinking, if we could incorporate this… become less gluttoness and more sacrificial, the world would be more like the home it is meant to be for us and our children.

Hug, the History Beaver

Terry Honstead

N 47° 28.162’ , W094° 52. 973 (2nd and Minnesota)

Hug, the beaver got his name from my 2 year old grandson. Hug is covered with the history of Bemidji. The information from old photos of residents, old newspaper clippings, and a written history was found on the internet. Hug is painted green for Bemidji State University, as they are green beavers. I painted pictures on him that remind me of this area. I chose a fish, an eagle, a deer and two trees. To me, they symbolize Bemidji, and the surrounding area. You can see these things from a distance. When you get closer, you can read some of the history. Up by the top of his head it tells about the post office and how Bemidji was mistakenly named “Bermidji” when the post office first opened. It was quite a lot of time and red tape to get the name corrected. On Hug’s foot are listed the mayors of Bemidji, and the dates that they served. There are many other facts to discover as you look closely at the surface. Sadly, some of the history was lost when the symbols of the area came into being. But, sad as that may be, Hug still contains many mysteries to uncover.

River Home

Paula J. Swenson

N 47° 28.425’ , W094° 52. 887 (by Courthouse)

The river and ponds where beavers make their homes inspired “River Home”. The riverbanks are lined with rocks, shrubs and small trees with larger trees in the background. Among the inhabitants of the woods are deer, bear and coyotes. The stars in the sky, the northern lights and the shoreline are reflected in the water where small mouth bass, blue gills and muskies swim. (I know bluegills are not brown and bass are not yellow but that’s how I am.) A spiny soft shelled turtle basks on a sandbar in the river.

Visitors are welcome to visit my studio by appointment. Appointments can often be arranged on short notice. Please call Paula at 218-751-6767

“Happy Trails”

Tim Nelsen

N 47° 28.364’ , W094° 52. 864 (5th and Beltrami)

I wanted to design something that was totally fun, with bright colors and original characters I developed that would appeal to kids. I have two young girls at home, so they had a great time watching the beaver (we named him Ed) become this big art piece. I even used some of their toys in the design and let them do some painting, so they thought that was pretty awesome.

My youngest girl liked the beaver so much that she sat on his tail and ate her cereal in the morning for a few days. Overall it was a great project to be involved with, and became something my whole family enjoyed. I hope the community enjoys the painted beaver sculptures as much as I did being a part of the experience.

I have provided the information, locations, and small photo collages of each beaver sculpture.  I intentionally did not post large pictures of each one, these photos are only to serve as a teaser.  I do hope that you will take the time to enjoy each sculpture up close and take in the true beauty, talent, and creativity in person.  If you look carefully at the art work it is easy to forget that such beauty is placed on the shape of a beaver.  A project like this just adds to my appreciation of this town and it’s artist population.  It is just another facet that makes this my town.

(Please leave a comment in the box below to show the artists your appreciation. Thank you.)

Julie Saari

A special thank you to Janet Rith-Najarain for providing the waypoints.

Christina T.

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown, North East of Bemidji | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Christina T.
May 2010
Bad Cat Creations
Downtown Bemidji

Coffee with sugar, a particular routine, a pack of cats, confident, all on her own terms…  She is never shy with her smiles and I found her easy to talk to.  She doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression- she isn’t soft she may even be gritty- tattoos, dark edgy hair, and a dress style you can’t just buy off the rack.  However, I saw a soft side too (look at the picture of her holding her cat), she is kind and seemed loyal and honest.  Fun, quirky, a robust true laugh… things I took with me after  meeting Christina.

May I introduce you to Christina:

I was born in 1981 in Copenhagen, Denmark to an Icelandic Mother and a Minnesotan Father. I spent my first few years of life in the tiny farming town of Ogilvie, MN and moved with my widowed Mother to Bemidji around the age of 3. My Mom eventually remarried to a hot-rod mechanic and we moved to the outskirts of Bemidji to an old two story log home built in the 1930’s by my Dad’s maternal grandparents. We had no next door neighbors and I had no siblings, often feeling alone and stranded in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest, my imagination took hold.

As a child I would wonder through the woods surrounding our house, often playing a story or a character in my head, with my trusty yellow lab, Susie, by my side. Some days I was a princess, captured by an evil queen, some days I was a pirate on a treasure hunt for lost gold (which happened to be my play jewelry I would ask my Mom to hide and then diagram a map for me to follow). I picked flowers for my family, collected rocks for my collection, and danced within fairy rings. My Mom embraced art in our lives, and we were always trying new creative avenues. I loved playing with paints, stringing beads and listening to music (of all genres). All in all, a creative and fun childhood.

Growing older, I began to resent being stuck in the woods, far from friends and things to do. We did at times live in town in a home we owned, but always ended up heading back out to our home in the woods for freedom and the stillness. As years went by and I became a teenager my need to leave grew more and more. I couldn’t wait to get out and live my life, discover who I was as I often felt stifled here.

When I was 20, I packed my bags and left for Minneapolis, I was never coming back.

While living in Minneapolis, wanting to find who I was, I realized I had always known who I was. What I was missing was my voice.

Art had always been a coveted dream in my mind, something I loved and had been striving for. I wanted to be an Artist. I told myself time and time again I would never be an Artist because I couldn’t draw or paint the things I saw in my head. It would break my heart over and over. While working at a shop in Minneapolis that sold jewelry making supplies, I pursued jewelry techniques as I had enjoyed making rather primitive jewelry as a child. It all seemed to come so naturally to me. I would spend all day working at the store, building ideas for jewelry in my mind, to get home late at night and pull together the small jewelry kit I had assembled for myself and work and re-work old jewelry. One night, inspired by pendants that were given to me by a customer at my job that day, I got up in the middle of the night with an idea of what should be done with those pendants. I was too afraid to lose the idea in my sleep. After a couple hours of stranding and link working I held up my finished necklace and said ‘YES! This is exactly how I saw it in my head!” That would later come to be my first “Aha moment”. I realized that maybe I couldn’t draw or paint the images in my head, but I had found MY medium for creation and my voice as an Artist.

It was soon after that, when my jewelry box was over flowing, as well as my friend’s and family’s, that I decided it was time to take it to the next level and start my business. Bad Cat Creations was born in 2002.

After 3 years in Minneapolis, I grew weary of the constant stream of noise and distractions. I missed the sounds of loons and crickets at night, having never become accustom to the sirens and noise of the city. The end of that last year could not come soon enough. I bought my home (a small mobile home) and moved it out onto my family’s property. Still unsure of where I wanted my life to go, after a year I closed up the house and headed to Pennsylvania to get a degree in special effects make-up. I don’t know if getting that degree and moving to Hollywood was ever a real goal in my mind, but at the end of my schooling, just about to graduate I realized it was not the industry for me. So, still not wanting to “go home” I headed to Arizona and started working for the Renaissance Festival, looking for new experiences and travel. Those first few months of life in the Southwest left me feeling unhappy and a little lost. When in conversation with one of my closest friends, she asked “if special effects doesn’t make you happy, then what does make you happy?” Without hesitation I said “I love doing my jewelry designs!” This was my second “Aha moment”.

With new determination, as well as wanting to be close to my family, I returned to Bemidji for the final time and began the journey to fulfill my dream.

I began to see Bemidji with new eyes and a new place of promise. Feeling secure and free in my little home in the woods, taking in all the beauty around me in my own yard that I seemed to have missed before, I pushed myself to pull inspiration from all my experiences and travels. Pursing art festival after art festival, toting my wears, telling my story and meeting fellow artisans and new artists looking for advice on how to “get started” selling goods, a brainstorm started brewing.

Having always had the dream to own my own store, I decided I would not waste anymore time simply dreaming of it. I would make it happen. I had decided I would not only follow my dreams, but I would chase them down and make them my reality! And if I could help other artists along the way, and bring new and different products to my community- I would do it, and do it with a smile.

I often joke that opening my shop was purely a selfish dream, I wanted a fun little boutique like the ones I loved in Minneapolis and other places in my travels, and if no one else was going to do it, then I would! But in actuality, I wanted to fully embrace my community and help it grow into the artist community it is blossoming into. I began to meet wonderful people, and find new love of old places I had once never given a second glance too. I love that I can walk through my downtown area and encounter friendly strangers and smiling friends. I love the strong sense of community, and the feeling that if we can be a strong community, then we too, as individuals, are strong.

I have some serious pride of my town Bemidji.  It is a fun, warm, loving, and creative community. I often wonder how I didn’t see these things before, but I don’t spend too many precious moments thinking of the past, wanting to savor every moment enjoying the present and dreaming of the future.

Written by Christina Thorne

Click here to see a slideshow of Christina’s photo shoots

pics by Julie Saari

Bad Cat Creations web site can be found HERE

Bad Cat Creations Facebook page can be found HERE


Posted: May 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Photography by Julie Saari
Downtown Bemidji
April 2010

Ruby “works” at KD Floral flower shop on the corner of 3rd St. and Minnesota Ave.  I find myself returning to this shop time and again not so much for the flowers (which are always fresh and beautiful) but, rather to see Ruby.  Always friendly and happy to see you, she greets customers with her caring brown eyes and a wag of her tail.  ‘Pet therapy’ is what I call it, what would you call it?

If you haven’t already,

Meet Ruby:

Squirrels, birds, frogs, trails, snow banks, lakes, and creeks.  It’s the perfect place for a dog.  There’s always something to do where I live.  You should see all the forest left to explore!   I love to run on the trails that are out by our house.  You can run and run and tumble and nothing gets in your way.  And in the winter sometimes the snow is so deep my head barely shows above the top.  Yea, it’s pretty great living here.

I didn’t always live here, or at least I didn’t always live where things were as wonderful as they are now. Let’s just say my previous owners weren’t very nice people to my brothers and me.  We became street dogs, were starving, and had nowhere to go. About two years ago, we were found running across the road, north of Bemidji. A nice man brought us home.  After some loving, I went to live with my family I have now. I always get enough food to eat and they love me so much.  Everyone says I still look like a puppy since I’m so small, but I’m growing up.  Next year I’ll be five!

I spend most of my time at my mom’s store.  We go downtown every morning to KD Floral.  It’s a pretty great job I have.  Most of the time I get to sleep and look cute, but when the customers come in I usually get to greet them, especially when the mail carrier comes.  He always brings treats.  There are a few customers that come in and ask just to see me.  That’s what’s so great about Bemidji. You can always find a loving face, a familiar smile, and if you’re a dog, someone to pet you.

On days when I don’t go to work with my mom, I get to stay home with my dad.  Man is that great.  I get to sleep in, chase squirrels in our big back yard, and lay in the sun when I get tired.  We live close to several parks with walking trails, where I love to run.  Night time walks and weekend runs are my favorite.  It’s so beautiful here.  When you look around you can see the pure beauty of creation; we’re lucky.  We don’t have to look at skyscrapers or smell stinky air.  It’s just trees and lakes and beautiful people.

Yea, life is pretty good for me. Especially since we live in Bemidji – I wouldn’t want to be a dog anywhere else.
To view a slideshow of Ruby’s photo shoot click here

pics by Julie Saari

KD Floral’s Facebook page can be found HERE

Karen F.

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Karen (or Ambika!) Lillquist Filardo
Downtown/Lake Bemidji Waterfront
March 2010

Strong, stoic, a wolf at heart, Karen wowed me with her smile and calmed me with her centered presence. A warm Spring day and cold Lake Bemidji were our backdrop. We talked and I snapped pictures. Karen did one yoga pose after another, making them look effortless. Years of experience and teaching give her this advantage. Well known around town we stopped often to chat with people passing by. Fun, energy, lover of life – this is the impression I was left with, what impression does Karen give you?

This is Karen F:

It’s not about me loving Bemidji, it’s more about Bemidji loving me! Both sets of paternal Great Grandparents came from Sweden and settled in Guthrie so I’ve always had roots and relatives in the area. My earliest memories of Bemidji are of “going to town” with my grandparents. Grandpa brought milk to the crea mery and Grandma, the Guthrie Reporter, handed in news to The Pioneer. I often made news; “Karen Lillquist, Bud’s girl, rode the Greyhound from Minneapolis to visit Art and Irene at home. She attended Ladies Aide, played with cousins, and rode her horse.” I thought I was famous in Bemidji. I still do….. I kind of am.

I didn’t plan on living up north permanently and even after 3 decades I sometimes feel like its time to go back to city life. Bemidji is a vacation place and I’m allergic to pine trees. Yet the reality is I live in a log house surrounded by them in a picture perfect setting on the lake. I still “go to town” weekly and when not teaching Yoga I can be found hanging out at Harmony Food Co-op. I can also be found dancing on the side wall of Harmony in a mural with local friends. Bemidji is a haven for talented artists. Like Al Belleveau who instigated our Sculpture Walk. For my 50th birthday he plastered me and created a blue dancing statue which is often part of the Walk. I used to put sweaters on it and once it wore Winona LaDuke’s old jingle dress. Bemidji is full of comedy.

I transferred to Bemidji State College in the mid 1970’s and loved it. BSU is an integral part of the town and brings in extraordinary people. Like Art Prof Marley Kaul who at that time had us painting BIG, or Art Lee who brought History alive better than the History Chanel. I performed with a Modern Dance Troupe on campus, rode my bike everywhere, played volleyball in backyards, and frequented The Union Station, Beaver Pond, Viking, and Jacks. Bemidji was full of bars with dance bands back then. As a former West Bank Hippie I had to live somewhere with live music. I became a Known Only Locally groupie. KOL recently serenaded my husband in front of our fireplace on his 60th birthday. An example of what makes Bemidji magical.

I got a job after graduation as Bemidji’s first Adult Day Care Director. Local elderly shared stories of lumberjacking, teaching in one room schools, working on the railroad and farming. Historically people have worked hard in Bemidji. My next job brought me to the controversial Counseling Associates, an outpatient Treatment Center that served the area and eventually clients from all over the country. I learned that Bemidji is a place of healing. I’ve helped people heal and have healed here myself. I’ve had to be flexible and creative in my career as jobs are hard to come by in our town. I jumped at artistic opportunities when they arose. Like choreographing dance for huge casts of kids and teaching them Creative Movement. I got to be in on turning the local funeral home into a Music and Arts Center. Talk about transformation! Bemidji feels stuck to me at times and other times I’m awed by the opportunities that arise. There are big parades, events where folks jump into freezing water, dragon boat races and roller derby to name a few. If nothing is going on you can go to The Wild Hare. I’m there now. It’s full of beautiful paintings and I’m full of great food. Cool people too, I just visited with an Olympic Curler soon to be a neighbor. You can always find someone interesting to talk to.

Nothing is more boring than rattling off your children’s achievements so I’ll just highlight a few unique opportunities they experienced while growing up in Bemidji; Speech contests and advanced placement classes. Nordic skiing that led to future collegiate championship. Show choir performance that won awards. Attendance at our Alternative Learning Center! I danced with my daughter for 10 years at Diane’s Dance. Attended excellent music recitals and sporting events. Bemidji’s kids are incredible. I know a ton of them. Many of them leave….and lots of them come back.

I’ve also had unique opportunities myself and sometimes wonder, if I had left Bemidji would I have participated in so many GROUPS? Twelve step. Folk choir, Pounders, Northern School Parent Volunteers, Bemidji Parent Network (coined Narcwork by my son), Artworks, Bemidji Babes, Zen Buddhists, The Gasman Crew; I am eternally grateful to Greg for casting me as a Tormentor in Jesus Christ Superstar, my claim to fame. We delivered seasons of divine performance that Bemidji nor our cast will ever forget. Bemidji fought to save the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, it’s a local landmark.

We also have Paul and Babe, Lobo the wolf, and Chief Bemidji. Indian Country surrounds us. I would not be happy without the presence of the Anishinabe whom I have had the great honor to both teach and learn from. I often work on the rez and have made lifelong friends crossing cultural lines. I sometimes feel the spirits of the First People on the shores of the Mississipi River where I live reminding me that our land is sacred. My life partner and husband John reminds me as well. He left NY for clean air, water and space. We fell in love in Bemidji and made it our home. Our nest is empty now and I’m traveling a lot to study and teach Yoga, my true calling. When I’m asked to describe where I live I can barely do it! What can I say….college town, regional hub, tourist area? It’s not about what people do here, its more about WHY people stay here being that it’s BRRRRmidji more than not. I’m convinced it has to do with being loved.

Written by Karen Filardo

To see a slideshow of Karen’s photo shoot click here

pics by Julie Saari

Karen’s Webpage can be found HERE

Cate B.

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown, Surrounding area: Cass Lake | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Cate B.
Cass Lake Elementary School
April 2010

Somewhere between roller derby practice,  judging performances for a music scholarship, child’s theater practice, classes, workshops, and meetings, Cate whittled out a bit of time for me.  I met Cate for the first time at The Wild Rose Theater in downtown Bemidji.  Trying to keep up with Ms. Belleveau and snap pictures at the same time was, to say the least, a challenge.   One can not help but feel her constantly creating, it seems to be second nature for her.  A buzz of activity and energy Cate’s spirit fills a room.

Meet Cate:

An athletic 8th grader traveling with her Wisconsin based family on a trip around Lake Superior and its environs was told “ Haul out everyone we need a break and this grassy lake front seems perfect!”

Six kids were stuffed in a  baby blue Ford station wagon and welcomed rolling down the grassy hills that came to a pleasant stop at the shores of Lake Bemidji.  After picnicking on that sunny August day and doing the “Cheese Smile” at the statues of Paul & Babe , we continued on to Lake Itasca. That would be a must-see if one was visiting northern Minnesota. Now, who would have ever in their wildest imaginings have guessed that this  little basketball jock young woman could have waved a good bye kiss to Bemidji.


“ Hey, I will be back in 9 years and eventually make you my home … I will fall in love with a man who was living like Thoreau.  I will open a woman’s theater collective in that old brick building across from where I rolled down the hill giggling with my siblings . I will work  hard with my husband to put public art on the streets.   I will strive to keep small town Bemidji alive in a way that only the arts can imbue  to a  sense of place . I will direct a  Shakespeare Fest  on your shore lines.  During a production of  Pippi Longstocking, pirates will come by boat  in a kids’ show in the warm August sun. The same sun I remembered from when I ate sandwiches with family way back when.  I will play opposite the mayor of this fair city in a theatrical show about ice fishing right on the lake  in January.  I will even race across glittering waters with an all female team for the Dragon Boat Festival .”

I love Bemidji for the arts community , the natural world , the “small time feel like I know people” ethos , and the sense of humor about itself .

Where else could we have raised  our children who have moved to large cities ( DC, NYC, Montreal ) who now  have memories of the screaming man coming up the driveway yelling “AAAAAAAL”.   That would turn out to be three baby bear cubs wailing at 4:00 AM in the birch tree out front of the house  . We have stopped in our tracks and listened to gray wolves howl which sent the hair vertical on our arms .

There is the kayaking on lakes where no one lives , the skiing by open water in Three Island Park, and snowshoeing on our own 120 acres of mixed woods, swamps and beaver ponds . There are the morel mushrooms, Springtime maple syrup, gardening all summer, mosquitoes, wood ticks, wood heat all winter long , sunsets, and aurora borealis.

This area has given me the joy of being publicly hugged by dozens of Native American children I have served on the Red Lake and Leech Lake Indian Reservations as I walk through Target and they spot me .

I am a gypsy always wanting to move on, move on and have traveled to Japan, Germany, 50 states and Canada, New Zealand, Nepal , Britain, France, Switzerland, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Italy, Greece.  I always want to explore more, learn more, understand more and yet I always return home to Bemidji.

My ashes will be scattered in my spiritual home, Heaven’s Peak in Glacier National Park,  but what a blessing Bemidji has been.  For now – home,  in the best sense …

Home is love ,
belonging ,
self- actualization as an artist,
aesthetic beauty and
spiritual growth.
Bemidji .

written by Cate Belleveau

To see a slide show of Cate’s photo shoots click here

Pics by Julie Saari

Lisa W.

Posted: April 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Check back on Monday April 12th to meet David.

Lisa W.

 Photography by Julie Saari

Lisa W.
Back Alley Downtown Bemidji
February 2009

What if someone never leaves their hometown?  Do you consider them stuck? Or are they blessed to have been born into the town they were meant to live in?

Lisa W. is one of the first people I see on my days in town.  A quick stop into Harmony Co-op for my Certified Organic Free Trade $1 cup of coffee serves more as a recharge of the spirit than a hot beverage.  Seeing Lisa there stocking the fruits and vegetables is a kind of  comfort to me.   The contentment of her face made me want to know her story, maybe you will find it interesting also.  Do you think she got stuck?

This is Lisa:

Bemidji’s my hometown.  I was born in the nursing home right off Bemidji Avenue which used to be the area’s main hospital.  I graduated from Bemidji Middle School, Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University, got married (and divorced, and married again, ahem) in the Bemidji courthouse, had a baby in the “new” Bemidji Hospital, and landed a job in downtown Bemidji at a our only community owned grocery store.  You get the gist.  I’m one of those: a local.  Not a seventh-generation indigenous local or a third generation Scandinavian-settler local, but the kind of local that was simply born here and feels Bemidji in her blood.

The question most hometown people get, from my experience, is ‘why didn’t you ever leave?  Or ‘what made you stay?’  as if it was a one time decision made at a vulnerable moment rather than a complex string of choices made around a central…..vision, perhaps, or set of values.  In this hyper-mobile world, it is rare when one stays put; much less by choice.

But being a hometown gal means that basically many, if not most of my ‘firsts’ happened here.   That gives some major psychic influence to a place.  It’s like a familiar smell that brings you back to your grandmother’s bathroom; this geographical space within which complex patterns of memory neurons form.  For instance, the Chief Theater was where I saw my first “R” rated movie, Excalibur, with a boy I liked so much I almost peed my pants at the thought of us eating out of the same popcorn tub.  (We didn’t.)   It was also the place I acted on stage for the first time when it became home to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.  (More firsts: my first case of pathological stage fright;  my first ceilingless high at successfully delivering a line.)

My first case of swimmers itch happened when I was ten, swimming with my sister in Lake Bemidji (she was 14 months older; she toweled off).  My first job was at T’Juans which afforded me my first car, the first boy who would ever break my heart, and, ironically…years later, the first guy who would  ever figure out how to mend it.  (Different guys, same restaurant.)

But regardless of my own personal ‘psychic influences’ that anchor me to this little rural village in northern Minnesota, Bemidji is a place in it’s own right; not just the place I had my first meeting with life, but a place that exudes a certain quality of life.  Not ‘quality of life’ kind of quality; that term is used very broadly these days.  Rather, more a felt-sense of ‘living’ that is able to happen here, between these lakes, inset along this river, amongst the meeting of cultures and traditions, under these forests, within these habitats, and withstanding this very extreme climate.  This is the reason so many of us stay here, or come here, or return here; this indescribable magnetism that a certain number of us feel…in our blood.

Perhaps it is as simple as the natural beauty of the landscape, though I think the harsh winters would deter the average aesthetic-minded traveler from settling here.  Perhaps it is the university; the odd placement of academia within a hard-working rural farming and logging community.  Perhaps it is the collective memory of the pre-settlement culture which keeps alive the spirit of the place in art, and dance, and story.    And even, perhaps, it’s the sense of cultural woundedness and historic oppression that hangs in the air as an invisible invitation for healing.

But more likely, it’s all of these things, plus.

What exact thing it is for me, I don’t know.  What I do know is that it’s been a choice made between this place and me.  Bemidji calls forth the values I hold on family, on beauty, on hardiness and complexity, health, determination, resilience, history, and community.  I guess I answer this call by keeping it alive in story, by choosing to stay and work and build and flourish in the community I’m called to, and by realizing that the big, wide world exists right where I open my eyes.

Written by Lisa Weiskopf

To see a slideshow of Lisa’s photo shoot click here

pics by Julie Saari

Mike W.

Posted: February 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Photography by Julie Saari

Your Mom’s Tattoo Atelier
Downtown Bemidji
February 2009

I walked into Mike’s business,  a cold call.  I had nothing but an idea.  I nervously explained how I wanted to collect the stories of people who live in Bemidji; people who loved living here.  Because, everyone has a story, I  want to know what they are- don’t you?

Mike listened, smiled, and agreed.  He agreed to the project.  I had no site, I didn’t even have my camera with me.  Just off the street.  I came into his shoppe and was made right at home.  A man gifted in his work using few words, rather speaking through his inks.  An artist.

You have a story, everyone walking the streets of Bemidji has a story, so does he.
What is it?
Join me, Julie Saari as we find out.

A hometown boy who left, only to return to the very town that had once stifled him.  Leaving showed Mike who he was. Returning allowed him to become that person. This is the story of Michael Wiltse:

I am originally from Bemidji, MN.  I was born in the mid-seventies and grew up in the downtown region of Bemidji.  As a child I never really liked Bemidji that much, I suppose it was because of youth dreams of other places.  As I went through High School my desire to leave this town was at it’s peak.  I was eager to travel on and see what else the world would offer.  As I moved away there was a sense of relief that finally I was free to fill my life with new experiences.  All of which I had in my mind to someday tell my childhood friends, not understanding that I would have to return in order to tell them.  After a stint in the service, heavy romances, tattoo apprenticeship, mixed with a bit trouble, I finally came home to be married to a beautiful Finnish girl named Erja Taskinen.  I have come full circle to move home, to start a family, and a business.  I reached an event horizon in my life and began to see my hometown with a mature light.  I find Bemidji is filled with the comforts of my past and the past of my peers.  I looked at the town as a whole family of different types of people.  All of us trying to make a living in one of the coldest places in the United States I can truly say that I am honored to be a part of the heritage of Bemidji.  We may not like each other sometimes, but we won’t let you down in times of need.

I would like to bring to Bemidji the time honored American Style of tattooing, as well as a progressive movement in the arts for the region.  Bemidji is filled with artists and it’s wonderful to see more culture in the region.  With all the worries that people have it is nice to know that Bemidjians can express themselves in a more positive manner.  Since tattoos have become mainstream Bemidji has become home to three tattoo shops.  During my years of tattooing, I decided that when I would open my tattoo shop it would be in Bemidji.  I figured the home field advantage would be a good place to start a business.  After tattooing in Ireland for a year, I met my future wife Erja.  When I moved home I began to get my business on the start, so that when Erja arrived we could get married.   My business was named Your Mom’s Tattoo Atelier.  I thought of the name while working in Duluth at Tats by Zap, and I figured it would be perfect for the town of Bemidji.  People love their mom, I love my mom, and so I named it after everyone’s mom.  Plus you can tell people you received a tattoo at Your Mom’s. So hopefully I will make in the annals of Bemidji, MN as the guy that brought progressive art scene to Bemidji.  You Never Know.

Written by Michael Wiltse

Mike’s Time Line:
Duluth, MN
Stillwater, MN
Ireland –  2005 where he met his future bride
Return to Bemidji –2007
Opened shop Jan. ’08

To see a slide show of Mike’s photo shoot click here

 pics by Julie Saari