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Turtle Fest: Perham’s big event of the summer

Turtle Fest has been a fun, family-friendly tradition in Perham for the past 28 years, encouraging residents and visitors alike to get out of their shells – and come out and play!

This year’s Turtle Fest will feature many of the same favorites that families have come to look forward to year after year, including, of course, the turtle races, but also games for kids, a grand parade, street fair, Perham Express train rides, sports tournaments, food and craft vendors, and more.

There will also be some newer but still tried-and-true events returning this year, including a hobby plane Fun Fly, skate board competition, Dog Expo, Perham Idol competition and Medallion Hunt.

Brand new this year will be events along 1st Avenue on Friday, June 21. These will include a magic show for kids by Imaginick, a Pedal Pull Contest, and live entertainment for kids by Penny and Pals. There will also be face painting, bouncy toys, a climbing wall, caricaturist, food and more.

Later on Friday, the grand parade will march through Perham, starting at 6:30 p.m. This year’s parade will be especially kid-friendly, with a theme of, “A Salute to Children’s Characters.” Afterward will be a street dance on 1st Avenue, featuring music by the crowd-interactive band Fat Daddy’s, out of Minneapolis. The street dance also serves as an all-class reunion for Perham graduates.

Brand new events this year will also include a performance by Heart O’ Lakes Harmony, a unique regional barbershop-style chorus. They will perform at the Perham High School Auditorium on Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and can be obtained from any Turtle Fest sponsors. Free will offerings will be accepted at the event, with proceeds going to Kamp KACE (Kids Against Cancer Everywhere).

“You will enjoy the performance – they have played to packed houses everywhere they perform,” promised Gary Senske, a leading organizer of Turtle Fest, of Heart O’ Lakes Harmony.

The fun and entertainment won’t stop there. As always, the demolition derby is expected to draw a big crowd. Held at the fairgrounds on Saturday at 4 p.m., this year’s derby will feature a new twist for the kids – Redneck Games. These games – including contests like watermelon seed spitting and hubcap throwing – will start at 3 p.m. and continue throughout the derby, behind the bleachers.

Another new activity for kids this year will be a Garden Party and Artifact Hunt, held on Wednesday, June 19 from 2-4 p.m. at the East Otter Tail History Museum. Children will be able to play the role of ‘historian’ as they search for hidden artifacts throughout the museum.

There will also be puppet shows, outdoor games for kids and more at Goose Gang from 1-4 p.m. June 20-22.

Also brand new to Turtle Fest this year – this time for the adults – is a $10,000 giveaway. Raffle tickets have been on sale since May, and the drawing will be held just before the Turtle Fest grand parade, at 6:15 p.m. on Friday at the judge’s stand. One lucky winner will walk away with $10,000, while second and third place winners will get $1,000 and $200. Proceeds go to the Perham Center for the Arts, a new nonprofit group that is establishing a theatre and art gallery in Perham.

People will also have a chance to win cash through the popular Medallion Hunt. Somewhere in Perham, a medallion will be hidden, and the first to find it will win. Clues will be available at the Perham Chamber office, and can be heard on the radio at Lakes 99.5 FM, starting next Monday, June 17.

Also of note this year is that the annual motorcycle ride for veterans has been moved forward a week, and will be enhanced with food and live music by the band 32 Below at Whiskey River following the ride. The ride used to be held toward the end of Turtle Fest, but this year will be one of the kick-off events on Saturday, June 15. It will start at noon at Lil’ Evil Inkorpor8ted in Perham, and eventually end up at Whiskey River just south of town. Proceeds from the ride go to Project New Hope, which helps returning veterans reestablish themselves into civilian life.

“I think it’s going to be a nicer event for the riders” because of the addition of food and entertainment, said Senske. “It should be a fun time, and a fun ride.”

Turtle Fest as a whole, he added, should be “a great time” for people of all ages, offering something for everyone.

Events will be ongoing from Saturday, June 15 to Sunday, June 23 – nine full days of fun.

Planning the events takes a whole team of people, working for several months to nail down the entertainment and put a schedule together. Senske said about 40 people are involved in various parts of the planning process, with the Perham Lions Festival Committee playing a key role.

“It’s a varied group of individuals that come together and make this a community event,” Senske said.

See a full Turtle Fest calendar of events at

A parade tailor-made for kids

This year’s Turtle Fest grand parade will be especially exciting for young ones, with a theme of “A Salute to Children’s Characters.”

There will be appearances by some popular children’s book and television characters, including Curious George, Spiderman, Superman, Clifford, the Keebler Elf, Oreo Cookie and Star Wars characters.

Tyler Krumwiede, chairman of the Turtle Fest parade, said he also hopes to see more kid-themed floats this year.

As in years past, he expects there to be about 100 parade entries total, including floats, marching bands and more. Trophies will be awarded to the best commercial float and best marching band.

Also of note this year will be a Sanford Medical helicopter flyover, weather permitting.

“It’ll be bigger and better,” Krumwiede said of this year’s parade. “And it’s always enjoyable.”

He estimated that about 5,000 people lined the streets for last year’s parade, and hopes for that kind of attendance again this year. He said planning for the parade has been in the works since last July.

For more information, contact Krumwiede at 218-371-5008.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

(218) 259-7034