With the illuminated historic water tower standing tall over Brainerd Jaycees Street Fest, Brainerd city council member and Jaycees member Dave Badeaux fired up the crowd Friday, July 27, to help save the structure in need of repair.

By virtue of spending money at the 18th annual community event organized by the nonprofit, those in attendance were contributing to the cause. Proceeds from the two-day Street Fest and its many events this year will primarily benefit Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity and Brainerd Restoration, the latter of which is working to raise the funds necessary to restore Brainerd's iconic concrete giant.

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"It wouldn't be Brainerd without that water tower," said Sheena Ziegler, Brainerd Jaycees Street Fest event chair. "I had so many awesome people come up to me and tell me their grandparents, and their brothers, and their great-grandparents worked on that water tower and built it to be what it was. It's a staple of our community and none of us really want to see it go."

Hundreds turned out to downtown Brainerd throughout the weekend to dance, play bean bags, compete in pie- and ice cream-eating contests and sample chicken wings and ribs. With fantastic weather and a plethora of both family-friendly and adult activities, Ziegler said the event was a tremendous success.

"It was very humbling to bring together the community in such a positive manner and see everybody have such a great time," Ziegler said. "We had family fun, adult fun-really fun for everybody."

New this year, the Jaycees provided American Sign Language interpreters during the headlining musical performances of Junk FM and Wyld Ryce Band.

"That turned out to be so cool. I had so many people from around the community come in and thank me," Ziegler said.

The chicken wing contest Friday night drew record-breaking numbers. The ever-popular Cub Foods Ribfest Saturday drew a large crowd of taste-testers and 20 rib-making teams, filling Front Street between South Sixth and Seventh streets with the smell of barbecue and lots of sticky fingers. Ziegler said the line for those waiting to purchase Ribfest tickets extended through the entire parking lot nearly to South Sixth Street.

Selected as the winners through a blind taste test by judges was the King Smokers team, followed by second-place Jake From State Farm and third-place Northern Lights. Jake From State Farm earned People's Choice (while also winning Friday's chicken wings contest), and King Kong Pig received the most votes for Best Booth thanks to its life-size animatronic gorilla with a pig's head, drinking a Roundhouse Brewery beer.

After 10 months of organizing, Ziegler said seeing the community come together for Street Fest puts a smile on her face.

"The event would not happen without our sponsors and the amazing volunteers who put in hard work and time out of their own time to make this thing happen," Ziegler said. "... It is so rewarding to see the outcome and for us to be able to donate all the money that we've made back into the community."

For more photos go to https://bit.ly/2OqFsz6.