Summer in Bemidji: Council discusses special event permitting

As Sanford Health now predicts a peak of COVID-19 in this area around Labor Day, many are left wondering if the summertime events Bemidji has come to expect every year will proceed as scheduled.

During a discussion at Monday’s Bemidji City Council meeting, the general consensus was to wait and see on approving special event permits until May 4, and will re-evaluate event permitting then, as guidelines for gathering and social distancing will likely change.

Organizers of events would likely be recommended to wait until one month before the event before submitting their special event permit applications to city staff, with the hopes that there would be updated guidelines on gathering and social distancing.

Most events scheduled for June have already been cancelled, such as Bemidji Parks and Recreation activities, Fishing Has No Boundaries, Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic and the Music at the Mississippi Waterfront concert series.

Several large events are still set to proceed as scheduled for July, such as the Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival July 1-5, the All-School Reunion July 16-18, Art in the Park July 18-19, and the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, which begins the last week in July.

Josh Peterson, director of Visit Bemidji and immediate past president of the Bemidji Jaycees, said they would be able to modify parts of the Water Carnival, as needed.

Gov. Walz’s executive stay at home order is in effect until May 4. City Clerk Michelle Miller has received some applications that are waiting to be processed, because there is still uncertainty of what will happen past May 4 for gathering guidelines.

The city code does allow the city to cancel events in the interest of public health, but the council members were unanimous in their preference that event organizers took it upon themselves to modify their event to meet guidelines, or cancel the event entirely.

Another Bemidji summer past time, road construction, was also discussed.

Road construction has been allowed under the Governor’s executive orders as essential work.

The city engineering department plans to reconstruct an intersection of America Avenue at 5th Street, a continuation of last year’s reconstruction project of 4th and America. Engineer Sam Anderson said next year in 2021, the city plans to reconstruct 5th Street from Beltrami to Irvine Avenues.

Anderson said he hopes 5th Street will then be left alone for a while. In recent years, that stretch of road has seen numerous projects, including four roundabouts.

The intersection project for this year will likely begin after the 4th of July, with the first project of the year beginning in May on Birchmont Drive.

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