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VIDEO: Despite downpour, tourists poured in for Awake the Lakes

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news Alexandria, 56308

Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Into each life, a little rain must fall. But does it have to always happen during Rib Fest time?

That's what Coni McKay, director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce was thinking when for the second straight year, a deluge of rain fell during the Rib Fest portion of Awake the Lakes on Saturday.

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This time, however, the organizers were prepared for it. A large tent was set up on 2nd Avenue to keep the rib eaters and the blues entertainment act, the Everett Smithson Band, crowded but dry.

"If we hadn't moved to that model, we would have been rained out again," McKay said.

The crowd was hungry. All the ribs were sold out in a record 50 minutes, McKay said.

For the fourth straight year, Rose City BBQ was the winner of the Rib Fest professional division, as determined by tokens cast by rib eaters. An out-of-town team, Backyard Smokers, was the winner in the amateur division.

The friendly competition is just one part of the Awake the Lakes celebration to kick off the summer season.

This year's goal was to attract more out-of-town visitors. Organizers moved the Rib Fest to Saturday night to accommodate travelers. McKay said the strategy appears to have paid off.

"The thing that astonished me is that looking over the crowd during the Rib Fest, I didn't know at least two-thirds of them," she said. "Our goal to attract more tourists worked. In spite of the rain, they came out and enjoyed the ribs. The band was also phenomenal. I heard so many people saying how good they were."

The rain halted a few events. A yoga session and a car show on Saturday morning were washed out, along with the first two presentations of Rich Wieber's Extreme Bicycle Stunt Show.

By noon, the clouds parted and the bikes were back. The four-member team wowed the crowd with all kinds of high-flying jumps and acrobatic bicycle maneuvers. The show, new this year, was sponsored by the Alexandria Parks Department and Alexandria Clinic.

Another new event - free harmonica lessons for kids - took place inside Fort Alexandria. Everett Smithson, with assistance from Miss Minnesota Alexandria Kvenvold, led the class and participants, ages 8 to 16, got to keep their harmonicas.

The Habitat for Humanity Motorcycle Ride also went off as scheduled from Apol's Harley Davidson at noon.

"Overall, it was a good draw for tourism and a great way to start the summer season," McKay said. "There were a lot of people in town."

See more photos and video online at www.echopress.com.

Read related story Memorial Day dedication: 'Our freedoms are not free".

EdenloffAl Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.

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