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Mother Nature didn't rain on Paul Bunyan Days parade

If you ask Paul Bunyan, Mother Nature deserves a swift lumberjack kick in the keester.

Mom drizzled on Paul's turtle races, doused the fishing contest and drenched his vendors.

The only thing she didn't rain on was Paul's parade.

Oh - and she let up both Friday and Saturday nights just in time for the dances to begin under the pavilion.

But Paul Bunyan didn't get to be a legendary lumberjack being a wuss. And like the giant who overlooks their town, Akeley organizers of Paul Bunyan Days soldiered on despite the soggy weekend. Some events were moved to the fire hall. Others went ahead in the rain.

"I think the most people we had was Friday (afternoon) when it was pouring," said vendor Patty Morehouse, of Pitty Pats Concessions. "People just crowd under the pavilion when it rains."

Morehouse spent the weekend making mounds of hot cheese curds, which hit the spot in the cool windy weather. "It is what it is," she said of Mother Nature, shrugging off the rain.

"If it hadn't been for the rain it would have been a wonderful weekend," said event co-chair Cathy Hamand. "Some of the vendors left early but you can't blame them. A lot of times you can live with the rain but the wind is really tough no matter what you sell."

Friday night's teen dance was fun - even if you weren't in those teen years. The bubble machine would have made Lawrence Welk proud - but the tune selection definitely wasn't champagne music.

Saturday night's adult dance "was a rockin' good time," said one man. Maybe Mother Nature is a girl that just wants to have fun.

The weekend festival seemed jinxed from the outset when, two days before it began, the carnival vendor called citing fuel costs and business problems as reasons it couldn't come.

Chagrined organizers offered Minnesota Magic Midway of Anoka extra funds to defray gas costs, but the company claimed it was going out of business.

Magic Midway kept the $5,000 deposit, which event organizers are now negotiating to get back. "That's in the works now," said Denise Johnson, one of the co-organizers. "We're definitely not going to have them back even if they stay in business."

Kids didn't seem to mind the adverse conditions. Happiness was a warm puppy, courtesy of the Humane Society doggie cage, a prime attraction. Most kids exited the puppy pen covered in canine slobber.

A treasure hunt and turtle races Saturday attracted dozens of kids looking for hidden treasure - and just the right painted turtle. Watching turtle races is like watching paint dry in the rain. They took agonizingly long to reach a finish line, even in wet, slippery grass.

Kids didn't seem to mind. Parents huddled under umbrellas, probably wishing they were at a NASCAR event. It would have moved along a bit speedier.

A climbing wall challenged kids of all ages - limber or less than limber. Bryanna Pruse, 7, Proctor, got close to the top until she made the mistake of looking down. She didn't like what she saw and quickly rappelled back down.

And what would a small-town festival be without a politician campaigning? Cynthia McGrath, a rural Akeley resident, was passing out flyers and flowers in anticipation of her announcement for a seat on the Hubbard County Commission.

But it was the parade Sunday, on a beautiful sunny day, that attracted hundreds of people seated in lawn chairs along State Highway 34. Kids anxiously awaited the parade start waving their plastic bags to catch all the candy thrown from each float. It was a haul better than Halloween.

Hamand said event organizers will meet in about a week to debrief, to see what they can do next year to improve attendance. But short of taming Mother Nature, Hamand said they didn't have much to improve on.

So maybe next year Paul Bunyan should shuck his lumberjack boots and put on his dancing shoes.

Because it seems Mother Nature is a party girl.