That famous north woods lumberjack is a perfect representative for this vibrant Minnesota city, since Bemidji, like Paul, is historic, rugged and strongly connected to nature. “Gathering by the lake and among the tall pine trees makes every event more peaceful, productive and refreshing,” says Susan Goudge, executive director, Visit Bemidji. “We’re small enough to be comfortable and large enough to be convenient.”
Venues for the Small, Medium and Large
“We love to work with groups, and we’re always flexible, creative and accommodating,” says Sparkling Waters Restaurant owner Reva Howe. Along with her husband, Doug, and son, Logan, who runs the bar, she oversees a well-known area lakeside eatery that offers a private space for 50 and a boardroom for 10, both of which include screens for audio-visual presentations. Sparkling Waters serves prime rib every night, and the Howes takes special pride in the restaurant’s lineup of delicious and decadent soups. One of the most popular is the creamy dill and chicken soup. “I’ve given out so many copies of that recipe over the years,” Reva says. (See page 36 for the recipe.)
The 1930s Art Deco landmark building, The Historic Chief Theater, was rescued from ruin by the Paul Bunyan Playhouse and the Bemidji community. “We’re a not-forprofit organization that operates as a 501(c) (3), so all contributions, excluding ticket purchases, are tax deductible,” says Business Manager Tracy Klefsas. “It’s great to hold a meeting in a historic space, and you can feel good that you’re supporting our community.” Keep an eye out for four original wood carvings of Native American chiefs, as well as many other preserved pieces of Art Deco embellishment. The theater features 310 seats and can be rented September through May for meetings, workshops, programs, concerts or other productions.
With spectacular year-round lakeside views and fair-weather outdoor meeting space, the Sanford Center is just the place to help participants experience the beauties of Bemidji, whether they’re inside or outside. The 5-yearold center includes a 30,000-square-foot arena, 10,000-square-foot ballroom and an outdoor patio. “We love being right on the lake,” says Kristi Anderson, convention sales and service manager at the Sanford Center. “We have outdoor seating, high tops, and even a portable bonfire, so people can socialize near the gorgeous views.” The convention center also features four 1,000-square-foot meeting rooms that overlook Lake Bemidji, and up to 1,000 people can be accommodated for a meeting, conference or event.
Keep it Moving
Bowling is always a fun group activity, especially when it’s happening at a long-time community establishment like Bemidji Bowl. The center features three private party rooms and a full-service bar and restaurant, with a total capacity of 495. There are 16 lanes in front, as well as an eight-lane area for glow-in-the-dark bowling. “We handle a number of groups all year long, and they’re always impressed with how many fun things there are to do here, the quality of our food, and our top-notch service,” says Steve Vosika, who has owned Bemidji Bowl for more than 20 years.
Nice Ride Bemidji is a rental service that allows visitors to make stops around town, ride the famed Paul Bunyan Trail, pedal the 17-mile loop around Lake Bemidji, or explore trails like the East-West Trail and West Shore Trail. Rates are $6 per hour, $25 per day and $80 per week.
Meet & Sleep
Meeting space abounds at the Hampton Inn & Suites Bemidji, which offers a 3,800-squarefoot area that can be divided into three conference rooms. “When you’re setting up events, you want it to be stress free, and we promise to make it easy for you,” says Sales Director Chad Harding of the planner experience at Hampton Inn & Suites Bemidji. The 100- room property offers 700 feet of sandy beachfront, and every meeting room overlooks the lake. “We also have a fifth-floor boardroom with a conference-style table, captain’s chairs, flat-screen television monitor and private bath, and the view from that space is amazing,” Harding says.
Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, located on Lake Bemidji, is directly connected to the Sanford Center. “That makes it convenient and comfortable for meeting participants, especially in winter months,” says Sales Manager Stephanie Winter. The property has 121 rooms and offers meeting space in the Lakeview Room, which has a 25-person capacity. Plans are in the works to install a Cowboy Jack’s restaurant in the hallway between the property and the convention center.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bemidji, the second newest property in Bemidji, is a fullservice hotel with 92 rooms and suites, most of which have lakeside views and private balconies. “We’re connected to the Green Mill Restaurant, but we also offer a full catering menu,” says Director of Sales Kelli Gibeau. The property’s one meeting room has a 30-to 40-person capacity.
BEMIDJI BY THE NUMBERS
4,400 SEATS AT THE SANFORD CENTER
115 MILES OF PAUL BUNYAN STATE TRAIL
12 PERCENT POPULATION INCREASE NOTED IN THE LAST U.S. CENSUS
2nd MOST POPULAR ROADSIDE ATTRACTION IN THE U.S.: PAUL BUNYAN AND BABE, THE BLUE OX
1st CITY ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER