Friendship Fest stage June 22 features variety of performers

By Joan Ellison, Special Correspondent 

In summer, the population of Pelican Rapids swells as folks from as far away as Colorado, California, and even Alaska enjoy the lakes, parks and people of the area. 

A Somali performance group are among the performers June 22.

Saturday, June 22, the music heard in Pelican Rapids will also swell to include the entire world. Six different musical groups will share their music and dance in Sherin Park at the 2019 International Friendship Festival. 

The cultural group traveling the farthest spiritually will be the Somali Culture Museum’s Dance Troupe.  The Troupe is made up of high school and college students from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area who are passionate about sharing their Somali culture.  Most of them have only been in the US for a few years. This group performed last year in Pelican to rave reviews.

From a completely different corner of the world is the Ballet Folklórico México Azteca, a dance group consisting of youth and adults dedicated to the performance and preservation of traditional Mexican folk dance. A highly valued cultural and artistic resource throughout the Minnesota region, the Ballet Folklórico México Azteca boasts a repertoire that includes traditional folkloric dance pieces as well as indigenous rituals that are fused with elements from contemporary movement. Their vision is to bring the beat of Mexico to the world.

Scandinavian group to take stage 

Local musicians and singers form the “Associates” group, performing at Pelican Fest June 22.

The members of Fargo Spelemannslag only travel from Fargo, North Dakota, but their music is the old traditional music of the Hardanger Fiddle played in Norway. An ancient tradition, the earliest known instrument was made in 1651, the Hardanger fiddle has four or five sympathetic strings that run underneath the fingerboard and add echoing overtones to the sound. Together, the instrument and the playing style create the sound for which the Hardanger fiddle is famous.  

The performers in Pelican on June 22 will be joined by a guest fiddler direct from Norway. Master dancer and dance instructor Valerie Thompson, from Fergus Falls, MN plays with the group and will be leading the Norwegian dance class at the Festival from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. Designed for beginners, anyone can join in the dance class.

Native American group to sing, dance, drum

The Buffalo River Singers and Dancers have been performing in the area since 2009. There are over 50 members, both young people and adults, in the group of which about ten perform at any given time. 

They perform the songs and dances of the Woodland and Great Plains tribes. The group has performed at MSUM, UND, Cass County Pioneer Days, the Cultural and Historical Society of Clay County, at numerous diversity events in Fargo and Moorhead, and at regional Pow Wows. The Buffalo River Singers and Dancers also performed at last year’s Festival to great acclaim.

Local “Band of Faith” includes area band members 

The Band of Faith, under the direction of Mike Nettestad, left, will perform at Friendship Fest. The group is pictured here at a recent engagement at Grahn Lutheran Church, on June 9.

The Band of Faith, led by Mike Nettestad will open the program at 11:30. This group began in 1996 and has grown in skill and size since then. They practice every Monday night twelve months a year and draw their membership from Pelican, Frazee, Rollag, Fergus Falls, Fargo/Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth. 

The Band focuses on old hymns but have also learned many national anthems, having played as a part of every Friendship Festival but one  since the first Festival in 1998. 

“Associates” an ensemble of familiar local musicians

Perhaps the musicians closest to home are The Associates: Lee Brenna, Laura Hagen, Tom Ladwig and Susan Ladwig. Three out of four of them were raised in Pelican Rapids. 

 In the past 2 years they joined forces to wow the community with their diverse style of music.  Guitarist, vocalist and all around funny guy Lee Brenna grew up in Pelican Rapids.  He proclaims that theatre and music are his third and fourth love, with fishing and hunting number one and two.  Bass, mandolin and guitar player Tom Ladwig is an Albert Lea native. He says he met a pretty girl in college, followed her to Pelican Rapids and never left.  

Guitar player and vocalist Susan Ladwig is a Pelicanite, raised in Pelican Rapids. She grew up with music all around her, played and sang in church and school.  She is married to the bass player, Tom.

Vocalist Laura Hagen grew up on Lake Lida. Her parents owned a sawmill and that’s where she got her start singing loud.  Country ballads are her favorite.  On a calm day you will be able to hear her sing from Pelican all the way to Erhard.    

Saturday, June 22 from 10:45 to 5:15, the beat of music from around the world will fill Sherin Park in Pelican Rapids. 

Bring chairs or a blanket to settle on the hill. Your kids can play old fashioned games, participate in world crafts, have their faces or hands painted and have a swing at the piñata, all while enjoying a meal that stretches across the world to Africa, Mexico, Europe, Scandinavia, The Phillipines, Italy and the good old USA.