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Carnival finishes strong

Water Carnival's 75th celebration went out with a cannonball-sized splash in its final weekend with bright sunshine bringing record participation to several events.

"We sold out Water Carnival buttons for the first time in recent memory," Johnna Thorson said. "We had incredible attendance."

Thorson, along with husband Chris and fellow Jaycees Nathan and Jackie Weber, acted as admirals for Water Carnival's big birthday year.

Last weekend kicked off with a crowd favorite: water fights in the park. Junior water fights had an unprecedented 130 kids don swimsuits, aim garden hoses and squirt their way to saturation.

"Typically in the past we've seen 70 (entrants)," coordinator Jon Pratt said, adding that if next year's fights are similarly successful the system may need to be reworked to accommodate more kids.

Once all the youngsters had taken their turns, the fire trucks took out their hoses and let the big kids take a swing at it. From 20 total teams -- another increase from recent years -- Lakeshirts teams won both the co-ed and women's brackets.

Organizer Jon Olson was impressed with this year's showing, both in participants and audience members.

"The turnout couldn't have been better," he said.

Following the fights, Water Carnival held its second annual Polka in the Pavilion, which also saw a remarkable number of attendees.

"It was another spectacular event," manager Melissa Opsahl said, adding that she also got a few tips for what might be done differently in the future.

"Hopefully it'll be bigger and better for the 76th."

Saturday was fun-filled all day long, as major yearly events set to a background of beer garden tunes kept people coming despite the strange turns the weather took.

"I don't think we could have asked for better turnouts," Jackie Weber said of the weekend's string of activities and attractions.

The morning began with the Northwest Water Carnival Fun Run/Walk.

"There was real good weather in the morning for a run," said Josh Bettcher, who organized the run/walk with wife Kim.

Nearly 100 people ran the 5k. Another 55 ran the 10-mile version and the rest walked for a total of 166 participants encompassing four age groups.

The chili and salsa cook-off awarded Bob Bekkerus first place in both categories -- and fed the crowd some spicy treats as they enjoyed the afternoon on the beach.

At the Pet and Doll Parade, 40-plus floats averaging four kids on each saw a hearty turnout of participants and pets. This year, the Humane Society chipped in by providing shade and water for the animals as they awaited their turn in the spotlight.

Later that day, the beanbag tournament amounted to more teams than could fit the bracket, meaning those after the initial 44 sign-ups had to be turned away.

"We had more than expected," coordinator Mason Pender said.

First prize in the double-elimination competition went to Twin Cities team Mckooz, who went away with WE Fest tickets. John Severtson's Lake Park team took second, and DL's Steve and Randy Jenson came in third, winning prizes donated by local sponsors.

Also popular was the sand castle contest, which had nearly 30 teams show up to prove their prowess.

The East Shore Pirates won the castle category. Team Cousins took first in the character division with a tribute to Jaws, and the McDonough Beach team won the miscellaneous award with a beer-bellied sand man sitting on the beach beside a cooler. All three winners took home various beach necessities.

On Sunday afternoon, spectators lined themselves along Washington Avenue's sunny parade route, guaranteeing a good time -- and a sunburn for those who weren't careful.

Luckily, the Jaycees ended the parade with a drive-by water-gunning on the trolley, cooling down the street's sidelines after an impressive 110 floats marched, danced, trotted and waved their way down the street.

"We had fabulous weather," Weber said, adding that many watchers followed the procession to the beach for the return of the water ski show after the parade.

The admirals would like to thank everyone who helped out with the 75th Water Carnival, a smashing success due to bountiful donations and off-the-charts participation.

"It was like everything fell in place," Thorson said. "The whole 10 days was like that."

"We're already planning for next year," added Weber.

Aaron Lauinger, after running this year's night golf and bed races, will take over as admiral for 2011, which promises to continue Water Carnival's lengthy legacy with another summer of DL's favorite festivities.