"Someone took my gun."
On the Fourth of July at the Peterson family reunion in Nisswa, this abrupt declaration carried only a small amount of shock value, for the Peterson family was celebrating the day with a unique twist.
In a rare instance where 38 family members from around the nation were able to get together, including all seven siblings, every family member present was outfitted in red and white striped calf-length pants and navy blue T-shirts with a custom design.
They were pirates.
LuAnn Cameron, the oldest Peterson sibling, made the offhand comment about her plastic gun as she attempted to locate the pirate accessory, preparing for the family's pirate ship entry into the Clark Lake boat parade.
Guttural comments of "Aargh" and "Aye, matey" were laughingly tossed around at the gathering, with even the youngest children enjoying the mood. Peterson granddaughter Makenzie, 8, padded out to the lake, pronouncing, "Me gonna catch me fish," in her pirate accent.
On July 4, 38 members of the Peterson family gathered from around the nation for a family reunion, complete with a pirate theme. The family is grouped around the "pirate ship" pontoon they designed and entered in the Clark Lake boat parade. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Family members hailed from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska and towns around Minnesota for the first time in two years that all the siblings have all been home together.
Johannah, an 11-year-old granddaughter from Colorado, said her favorite part of the family reunion was seeing the relatives. "I don't get to see everybody that often," she said as the drive to Minnesota is about 14-15 hours.
All seven siblings graduated from Foley High School, and parents Roy and Alice Peterson moved to their Nisswa home on Clark Lake in 1990.
The group remembers childhood Fourth of July celebrations on Emily's Ruth Lake. They had uncles who lived on the lake, and the Peterson family enjoyed camping there.
Now, however, the family gathers on Clark Lake, filling Roy and Alice Peterson's home, the bunkhouse and then spilling out into tents in the yard in order to house the large family.
Siblings and their spouses are LuAnn and Rich Cameron, Pillager; Keith and Roxie Peterson, Rice, Minn.; Lori and Kevin Kramer, outside Des Moines, Iowa; Jenny Peterson, Chaska, Minn.; Sam and Tim Rohwer, Arlington, Minn.; Neil Peterson and his fiancee Sue, Breezy Point; and Scott and Darcy Peterson, Loveland, Colo. Each one was at the Nisswa lake home for the celebration.
There are 19 grandchildren in the Peterson family, and only four were absent from the day's festivities. There are also seven great-grandchildren.
"We have a lot of fun," Sam said. At one point, she joked, "I'm the favorite," and the statement was quickly met by guffaws from her siblings.
Aside from Fourth of July reunions, the family also tries to get together at Christmas. Their other favorite holiday is Halloween. Last fall, Roy, Alice, and some of the siblings and their spouses rented a limousine and dressed up as monkeys to go "bar-hopping."
They also enjoy singing, with one of the family's favorites being "Seven Bridges Road" by Eddy Arnold. The family often harmonizes, but the parts aren't always perfect. "Sometimes we get six and a half parts," Scott said with a laugh.
On July 5, every member of the family either walked or ran in the 5K Crosslake's Grandpa's Run for the Walleye.
On the Fourth of July, though, the Peterson family was all about pirates. The pirate idea sparked from a pirate flag found last year at a flea market. The family laughingly admitted that a little "happy hour" influence was involved.
That little pirate flag evolved into a full blown "pirate ship" pontoon. The family even thinks it will probably become a tradition. Tim Rohwer, as a contractor, was the main person in charge of designing the ship.
The Peterson parents, the siblings and their spouses were aboard the boat for the parade. In the words of the siblings, the rest were "land-lubbers."
Equipped with a sail, cannons, a parrot, a fog machine, a dingy with a skeleton draped in it and a group of enthusiastic "pirates," the Peterson pirate ship stood out from the sea of red, white and blue parading through the lake.
Scott was in charge of the shirt's logo, Jenny was responsible for the flag and Alice sewed 38 pairs of pants. "Everyone looks so cute in their costumes," said LuAnn. "We depleted every Wal-Mart of red stripe material from St. Cloud to Hermantown."
Alice shared her experience purchasing the fabric and said that when she would buy it, the clerk would ask how many yards she wanted. Alice said, "I'd tell her, 'I want the whole bolt!'"
"We had so much fun getting ready. We've never had a pirate ship out here," Alice said of the boat parade.
In the midst of the pirate ruckus, boisterous laughs and scrambling to put the final touches on the "ship," LuAnn walked down to the lake to board the boat. "I finally found my gun," she said triumphantly, raising it in the air.
As the ship took off, the plastic gun was fired, creating an airy bang. The Peterson pirates had set sail.
AMY FREDMAN may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5866.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.