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Niijii Radio plans big gala May 2-3

Music, art, food, fellowship and comedy — Niijii Radio’s second annual Baapinakamigad (which is Ojibwe for, “There is a festival”) will include a little bit of everything.

The “Gala Celebration of Minnesota Music & Arts” is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday, May 2-3, in Detroit Lakes’ Historic Holmes Theatre Ballroom.

The radio station known as “The Voice of the White Earth Indian Reservation” is once again offering this showcase for some of the region’s most talented visual artists, crafters and musicians, as well as comedy and other live entertainment.

“We got this grant (from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund) to promote arts and culture in our area, and throughout the state,” said Niijii Radio’s general manager, Maggie Rousu.

What they decided to do with it, she added, was “to bring together spoken word artists, musicians, comedians, visual artists and crafters, and showcase what they do in the public realm.”

“As a community radio station, it’s not only our duty, it’s our privilege to sponsor the arts in this manner,” added Carlee Kuhn, the station’s project coordinator.

And so the first Baapinakamigad was born. More than 200 people visited last year’s two-day festival — and that’s not even counting the local elementary students who visited the event after attending an afternoon children’s show inside the Holmes’ main theater, Rousu said.

The event was deemed so successful by the organizers, vendors and performers who took part in it that they decided to do it again.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Rousu. “This is our second one, and last year’s went really well, especially for a first time.

“Last year was our learning year,” she added, and while she expects that they will continue to learn and grow with each succeeding year, they have learned a few things already.

For one thing, they discovered that having the festival open all day on both Friday and Saturday was not really productive, as the attendance didn’t really begin to pick up until after 4 p.m. on Friday, because most people were still working.

This time, the event will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 2, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 3.

They will also be bringing in a caterer this time, Rousu said.

“Central Marketing will be catering both days this year, with their wonderful paninis, delicious soups and sandwiches,” said Kuhn.

When it came to booking performers and artists, they wanted to “touch on mind, body and soul,” Kuhn added, so they brought in “a variety of musicians from all over the area.”

In addition, they decided to include a comedian as well — and chose well-known native entertainer Tito Ybarra, a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe.

“He’s really, really funny — very well known in our community for his comedy,” Kuhn said.

Another artist that they are excited to have on the schedule this year is a young, up-and-coming Detroit Lakes artist by the name of Sam Roth.

“We’ve featured him on our new artists radio show, and gotten some really good feedback,” Rousu said.

Another Detroit Lakes-area group that will be making their festival debut is the quartet of young female singers known as Torn Roses, which made a splash at February’s Chocolate Chill event in the Washington Square Mall.

“They are very professional, poised and well-mannered young ladies, and we’re hoping to give them some exposure and help get their name out there – as we are for all our artists,” Kuhn said. “This is a great opportunity for our vendors, crafters and artists, many of whom will be having their first show with us.

“They’re very excited to show what they can do.”

Vendors taking part in the festival this year will include a specialist in Reiki healing and someone who has developed her own line of natural medicines and healing products.

There will also be artists featured who produce a wide variety of traditional, handmade arts and crafts including chainsaw art, handmade dresses and beadwork — many of whom will be donating door prizes to be given away during the gala.

“We even have a black light artist who will be doing live paintings during the musical performances,” said JoDan Rousu, Maggie’s younger brother, who is also the executive producer and program director for Niijii Radio.

Besides those already mentioned, other musicians who will be performing include Mike Gilson — known as one of the founding members of the Unbelievable Uglies — as well as Breni Lou Butler, The Third Ears, Sonny Johnson and Global Prairie Rock.

Kuhn also noted that the gala would not be possible without the volunteers who give of their time and talent to make it happen.

“We are always looking for more volunteers here,” she added.

“Most of our on-air broadcasting is volunteer,” JoDan Rousu said. “We are always looking for people who want to come in and learn how to DJ… we play all genres of music.”

At the same time, he noted, they do try to feature artists whose music has a positive message.

“We want to build positive relationships with the community,” Maggie Rousu said, explaining the reasoning behind the station’s “feel good” programming.

There is no cost to attend the Baapinakamigad Gala Celebration, and parents and grandparents are encouraged to bring their entire family to enjoy the festivities.

“This event is oriented toward families being able to bring their kids and enjoy the festivities,” Maggie Rousu added.

“Everyone is encouraged to come out and support our community artists,” Kuhn said.

For more information, please call Niijii Radio at 218-375-2012, or visit the website,

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454