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The first turtle races of 2012, held last week, brought in 141 racers - more than twice the number at last year's first race. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

It's Turtle Fest time!

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Perham Focus
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It's Turtle Fest time!
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Perham's annual turtle races kicked off last week with 141 participating racers, more than doubling last year's first race total of 60.

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The international races attracted people from as far away as Germany, though many locals enjoyed the event, too.

The grand champion of the first race of 2012 was two-year-old Kason O'Brien of Norfolk, Neb. Second place went to Ella VonRuden of Perham and third place went to Eli Symmonda of Peoria, Ill.

Though turtle races are held every Wednesday all summer long, eight straight days of related family-friendly events are planned for the 28th annual Turtle Fest, which began this past weekend.

Expect all the traditional activities - a parade, turtle races, craft fairs, a street dance and plenty of games for kids - as well as new opportunities for fun.

In an interview with Gary Senske, chairman of the Perham Lions Festival Committee, he said, "We want everyone to come and enjoy themselves. It'll be a great time. A fun time."

Since the Lions took over planning for the Turtle Fest last year, the focus has been on events that accommodate children as well as teenagers.

New to Turtle Fest, kids of all ages and skill levels are invited to show off their moves on skateboards on Friday, June 22 at 5 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for highest and longest jump as well as other moves. Register at perhamlions.com

A soapbox derby is on the calendar again, with prizes given in different age groups.

A magician will be present at the turtle races this year, offering tricks for the young and old, and Penny and Pals will be back with an audience participation story show.

Buy ducks at the Perham Chamber of Commerce, United Community Bank or Zorbaz to race in the Wacky Quacky Ducky Derby, the second annual fundraising event for Perham Kids Club. All the purchased ducks will be dropped into the river by Zorbaz to race to the finish line for cash prizes.

Look for plenty of food vendors during the week, as well, and expect an occasional free lunch. The Perham Lions club will celebrate its 40th birthday this year by providing the community with free pork sandwiches.

Also on the list of 'must dos' is the Perham Turtle Fest grand parade, to be held on Friday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. as a "Salute to Veterans." Many floats and events before, during and after the parade will be honoring area veterans.

New to the parade this year will be a flyover of a B51 Mustang Bomber, originally flown in World War II, weather permitting.

The parade will pause for a special presentation of the national anthem in front of St. Henry's Area School. Accompanied by the New York Mills Marching Band, Sadie Stoll will be singing. The Lakes Area Mountaineer Club will be adding to the effect by shooting off simulation canons.

Turtle Fest Parade Chairperson Tyler Krumwiede said in an interview, "This year will be bigger and better." There were more than 100 participants last year.

Area businesses will be involved in the parade again this year, as well as three school marching bands, Jamestown Clowns, Highlanders of the North, and figures like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Smokey Bear.

Audience members are asked to bring American flags to wave during the parade, and any serving or retired veterans are encouraged to walk in the parade.

Check-in and parade line-up starts at 5 p.m. at the intersection of 1st Ave. S. and 5th St. S.W.

Turtle Fest events are supported by local businesses and organizations. Most activities are offered free to the public; those that have an admission charge are fundraisers for various programs.

Senske said, "It's the sponsors' way of saying 'thank you.'"

For more information, go to perhamlions.com and click on the 'Turtle Fest' tab.

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