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Samantha Dingmann, 2, awaits her turn at blueberry cheesecake. Grandpa Mike Studanski of Laporte tried the first bite just to see if it was good enough to share. After making an initial face, Samantha decided she liked cheesecake - and blueberries. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Thousands come out for blueberries at Lake George annual festival

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

At barely 10 minutes after 10 a.m. Saturday, Carol Hadrava made the dutiful trip out to the roadway to take down the "pie sale" sign.

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Lake George's 40 blueberry pies, baked to benefit the Senior Citizens Center, were gone.

Blueberry shakes filled many a warm tummy as Una Bessler just kept on tapping her ice cream machine.

"I've never kept track of how many we sell," she said. "Lots and lots and lots."

The Lake George Café tried in vain to stay open longer hours, but a food and pie shortage forced the business to close by early Saturday evening.

In other words, the 27th annual Blueberry Festival was a resounding success. The tiny burg of less than 300 had pulled off the impossible again - playing host to thousands.

From Friday's quilt raffle to Sunday's parade, throngs of residents, guests and curious lined Highway 71/200 and County Road 4, Lake George's main intersection. Attracted by flea markets, the kids carnival or new events this year featuring wrestling and a beer garden, the only disappointment throughout town was how fast the blueberry food items go.

And this was a bumper year for the crop.

"You only have two left?" asked Glen Peterson, a seasonal Park Rapids resident, incredulous that he was buying one of two blueberry pies left at the Senior Citizens Center.

"There was a line outside the door when I got here at 9:30," said cashier Marilyn Fulk.

And despite pressure, the Lake George Seniors won't bow to favoritism.

"We don't save pies," said Alvina Omtvedt firmly. "That's how fast they go. You just have to come early and stand in line."

Kids and parents lined the street outside Lake George's famous post office to get their photos taken and then watch the kids pedal tractor pulls.

"We started bringing the tractors up here in 1993 ad they've been a big hit," said Frank Marshall, owner of Marshall-Chase Pedal Pulls.

The Grove City family hauls up the vintage International Harvesters and baby John Deeres on a flatbed trailer every year.

Kids from 4 to 11 compete to see who can haul the heaviest load the furthest as parents and spectators cheer them on.

Deb Manz organizes the children's carnival and bike giveaway that lures kids from hundreds of miles away.

This year, as in past years, 25 bikes, numerous helmets and other prizes were donated by Lake George business owners, residents and surrounding merchants.

"It's a pretty big deal," Manz said.

Down the street, a first-time wrestling event captured a rowdy crowd outside the café.

Wrestlers dubbed "Rock n Roll," "Lover Kid," and "Lil' Sexy" entertained adults and kids alike.

"Not the double ax handle!" screamed fan Mike Kinnan of Rogers, who brought wife Kelly and friends with him to watch midgets and giants wrestle.

"He's using the camel clutch... now the leg bomb," Kinnan roared, then sheepishly admitted, "I may have grown up with this sort of thing."

The dry township sprang for a special alcohol permit so it could host a beer garden Saturday.

"It's about time," hot and thirsty guests said as they lined up for beer.

"We've been coming here for 28 years," said Leah James of Brainerd, wearing a vintage blueberry T-shirt from 20 years ago.

But this is only the festival's 27th year.

"Oh we just camped that first year," she explained. The festival gave them reason to return year after year.

Nine-month-old Drake drum of Lakeville was so enthralled with the surroundings, he began crawling and wouldn't stop.

Next year he'll be running, with blueberry stains covering his chubby cheeks.

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