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City on the pond celebrates Water Days

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON — Nate Pederson takes a stance, makes a pitch and slides a bag of beans across the board to score an easy three-pointer.

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He’s hoping there will be more of that on Saturday, when New London hosts its first-ever bean bag tournament as part of the community’s Water Days celebration.

Pederson organized the event, which will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Holm Park, located on the Mill Pond. There are 32 teams registered to play in the tournament, which offers cash prizes for top winners.

Considering there are several teams registered that consider themselves pro-worthy, the competition could be tight, said Pederson. Teams that have tossed a few bags but play for fun will be grouped into a separate level.

“Bean bag is a nice game that’s easy to play but difficult to master,” said Pederson, who plays on a local league.

It’s also the kind of game that attracts young adults, said Pederson.

An old-fashioned game of bean bag is just one of the new activities the Water Days’ committee has planned for this year’s community celebration, which started Wednesday with a style show and classic car event and continues through Sunday with a free concert at 6:30 p.m. at Neer Park by national Christian recording artist Jason Gray.

A group of young volunteers who live and work in New London agreed to take over the big job of organizing the celebration this year.

“We picked it up and definitely have done a lot of learning along the way,” said Jen Dahl.

“There are so many new things that are happening — a lot of family-friendly activities,” said Raquel Skindelien.

Along with a mix of longtime favorite activities, like the Mill Pond Mile, kids’ fishing tournament, street dance, parade and fireworks, Dahl said the committee added some new events, like the bean bag tournament, petting zoo, water slide and holding the street dance on Friday night so that families can watch the fireworks together on Saturday night.

“We wanted to create some new excitement and bring out some young people and families,” said Dahl, who thanked city officials for agreeing to close off additional streets for the craft fair and for allowing beer and food to be sold at the city park during the bean bag tournament.

“So if people want to have a casual beer while playing bean bag, they can certainly do that,” Dahl said.

For the first time in more than a decade, New London will be crowning a queen. Reviving that part of the Water Days tradition took money and time to do things like build a parade float, but it was seen as an important way for the town to be represented in the region.

“We just feel it’s important to have an ambassador for New London,” Dahl said.

Four young women are participating in the scholarship-type event, which includes providing the women with opportunities for entrepreneurial job shadowing and training in public speaking.

Along with a variety of food vendors, the New London Fire Department will hold a hog roast Saturday after the parade. Money that’s raised there goes to help the volunteer department, Dahl said.

Most of the events are free to make it easy for families with young children to participate in activities, Dahl said.

Water Days activities that charge admission, like the street dance with the band Pop Rocks, will be used to help make the event “bigger and better for next year,” she said.

Today’s Water Days activities include sidewalk sales by local merchants, tennis tournament, book sale, the Little Crow Ski Show at 7:30 p.m. and street dance at 8:30 p.m.

The Saturday activities also include the Lions breakfast at Peace Lutheran Church, the Mill Pond Mile at 8:15 a.m., the Grand Day parade at 11 a.m., free live music by local bands, minnow races and other kids’ games and inflatables, bingo, kids fishing tournament at 2 p.m. with prizes for every kid, queen coronation at 4 p.m., craft fair from noon to 6 p.m. and the final performance of “Crazy Town” at the Little Theater at 7:30 p.m. followed by the ring of fire and fireworks.

On Sunday there’s a community church service on the pond at 8 a.m. and omelet breakfast at the American Legion, kids’ pedal pull at 2 p.m. and the free Jason Gray concert at 6:30 p.m. at Neer Park.

A medallion hunt, with daily clues, is also taking place.

A full listing of all the Water Days activities can be found on New London’s web page.

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