Pepie search unsuccessful
No one has found Pepie, but people around the world have found Lake City as a result of the search for Lake Pepin's resident sea creature. Last spring, the Lake City Tourism Bureau announced it would pay a $50,000 reward to anyone who could prove...
No one has found Pepie, but people around the world have found Lake City as a result of the search for Lake Pepin's resident sea creature.
Last spring, the Lake City Tourism Bureau announced it would pay a $50,000 reward to anyone who could prove the existence of the aquatic creature commonly known as Pepie.
Rumors of the elusive creature have been surfacing regularly since the historical siting on April 28, 1871, which was cited by the Minnesota Historical Society in its Almanac of State History.
Even the native Dakota people who lived along the Mississippi River reportedly were hesitant to travel in their canoes on Lake Pepin because they feared large creatures would surface and puncture the thin birchbark skin.
Lake Pepin, at 22 miles long and more than 2 miles wide, is almost identical in size to Scotland's Loch Ness, prompting local officials to speculate that the creature may be related to Scotland's Nessie, or Lake Champlain's Champ.
"We looked for him" all summer, said tourism spokesman Larry Nielson, owner of the Pearl of the Lake paddleboat -- an official Pepie Watch Station.
"There even was an expedition that came to town" in August, he reported. A group from the Twin Cities that has traveled to the Pacific Northwest in search of Bigfoot and to Scotland in search of Nessie came and spent the weekend in Lake City.
They came waving a banner with their motto, "Cienta procul ullus sumptus" (Science at any cost), and carrying a giant swab to collect DNA samples.
In order to claim the reward, Nielson pointed out, a person must submit undisputable photographic and scientific evidence of the uncatalogued biological specimen known as Pepie. Proof should include photographs and/or samples of skin or fins that can studied for DNA analysis.
Although no one claimed the prize, a few people submitted pictures to the official Pepie Web site, and Nielson heard people talking about the creature all summer long. "I wonder if we'll see Pepie" was commonly heard aboard the paddleboat.
"The really neat thing about this whole deal is the publicity that we got and the people who came to town looking for Pepie," he said.
News of the creature spread worldwide.
"I spent 20 minutes talking on the largest radio station in Tokyo, Japan," Nielson said, when they called him to learn more about Pepie. He also was on National Public Radio twice, and has received e-mails from China, Germany and Holland.
"We've had just about every major newspaper in the country" do a story, Nielson added.
Many who contact Lake City want to know more about the promotion, and whether it's been successful in drawing people to the area.
"I think it did increase business" on the paddleboat, Nielson said. "Hundreds of people came" to look for Pepie, from shore as well as by going on the lake. "People think it's a fun idea."
The hunt may not have been the sole factor in attracting visitors, he said, but the publicity got them to check out Lake City and Lake Pepin, which may have led them to visit the area.
With cold weather fast approaching, Nielson doesn't think anyone is likely to claim the reward this year. Like other aquatic creatures, he expects Pepie will remain mostly submerged through the winter months, then re-emerge hungry come spring.
It's not too late to submit photos, however, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org , or by mail to Help Find Pepie, c/o Nielson at 100 Central Point Road, Lake City MN 55041.
"When I started this deal, I figured it was win-win," he said. "It cost me nothing," yet if anyone had found Pepie, the publicity would have been worth many times the $50,000 reward.
Pepie hunting will resume in the spring. Local officials are brainstorming ideas. "I think we're going to raise the reward," Nielson said, "and buy a Lloyds of London insurance policy" to guarantee payment.
For the latest reports, go to www.pepie.net , which serves as an archive for photographs, sightings, expeditions and news reports.