35th Annual Flekkefest [UPDATED]Published 9:55am Thursday, August 9, 2012 Updated 9:55am Thursday, August 9, 2012
On a cold, snowy evening in 1977, three creative minds bantered and dreamed into creation, Elbow Lake’s version of the small town festival. This one would feature trolls and tractors, Scandinavian heritage and sister cities. Jon and Dana Schroeder, then the owners of the Grant County Herald, and Dave Simpkins, the editor, wanted the event to be a celebration of the town: where it came from, what it was, and where it was going. They imagined it being fun, casual, and inviting.
Always the first full weekend in August, this year’s celebration begins Friday, August 3rd and runs through Sunday, August 5th. It highlights the 125th anniversary of the founding of Elbow Lake and a 125-year all school reunion.
With more on the agenda than ever before, the town is geared up to provide enjoyment for all ages with musicians, art and craft vendors, Little Miss Flekkefest Forestilling (pageant), Flekkefest Idol competition, fly-in and airplane rides, classic car show, vintage tractors, used book sale, museum tours, a parade featuring the University of Minnesota Marching Band, a (treasure) snoose box hunt, trolls, crazy days, tractor pedal pull, 5K race/run, disc golf and softball tournaments, fireworks, a rock climbing wall, Monkey Jumper, Games Galore for kids with five huge inflatables, corn maze, dunk tank, dances, entertainment with Docs All-Stars and Trip Wire (featuring Tim Melin who grew up in Elbow Lake), a gun raffle, etc., etc. To sustain people during all these activities lots of new food booths will be serving all day and evening Friday and Saturday throughout the town. For a detailed schedule and rules for the competitions, check the festival’s website at www.flekkefest.net .
In addition to all the great food, fun and entertainment, Flekkefest is definitely the epitome of “old home week” for those who ever lived near or in Elbow Lake. Many ex-pats choose the first weekend in August for their annual pilgrimage back “home” because they know they will get to see so many familiar faces and reconnect to a place that is special to them.
Also, in honor of Elbow Lake’s 125th Anniversary and All School Reunion a special cancellation postmark, stamp, and several postcards have been created. This First Day Postmark will be available Saturday, August 4th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Community Building on Main Street in Elbow Lake. You can bring your own envelope, card, or anything that can be mailed, to the site for cancellation. You can also use your own stamp or purchase the Elbow Lake stamps and cards. These items are considered to be highly collectable.
When you come to a celebration such as Flekkefest your main objective is to enjoy yourself and you probably don’t think too much about how much work and time goes into creating the event. From the beginning Flekkefest was a collaboration of many service groups, businesses, churches, and individuals, including the sister city movement. Hence “Flekkefest” (pronounced like ‘Flicka’, but with a soft ‘e’), named after Elbow Lake’s sister city of Flekkefjord, Norway, and the festival’s trolls and Scandinavian food. This many-footed foundation has made for the success and endurance of Flekkefest for 35 years.
Growth of the festival has not always been steady. Many such festivals suffer because of a shortage of volunteers. It is to the credit of dedicated volunteers in Elbow Lake that Flekkefest has made it this far. The festival committee has seen an increase of membership in recent years. Combining the invaluable knowledge and experience of long-term volunteers such as Millie Kastner and Dorothy Hermes (see photo) with the youth and energy of younger members, such as current committee chairwoman Missy Myron-Rustan, has resulted in a bigger and better attended festival in recent years.
Missy Myron-Rustan grew up on a farm north of Elbow Lake. Born the same year the celebration was created, Missy doesn’t remember when there wasn’t a Flekkefest. “It was a big deal when I was growing up. For us farm kids, we didn’t get to go to town unless we rode with Dad in the grain truck. Flekkefest was the one time of year we actually went to town for something other than business or school. The first Flekkefest I can truly remember was in 1987, the centennial of Elbow Lake. That was the biggest celebration we’ve had until this year.” Living away from Elbow Lake for four years of college, Missy doesn’t think she has ever missed a Flekkefest.
As a business owner, Missy says that Flekkefest is a great opportunity to show people what Elbow Lake has to offer. Many businesses, hers included, will be selling food and other products, and hosting events such as fingerprint / photo id of children, pony rides and a coin dig. Hans House will be offering a Taste of Scandinavia. For some of the local service groups, Flekkefest is a great fund-raising opportunity. Among these, the Lions Club hosts a very popular fish-fry on Sunday and the high school football team will be selling corn and barbecues Saturday night as the parade passes by Veteran’s Park.
In 2011, the Flekkefest Committee was restructured with formalized by-laws, a constitution, and adopted the following mission statement: “The Elbow Lake Flekkefest Committee is established to create an annual festival that showcases our community to past, current and visiting people of all ages, from all areas, while helping boost our local businesses’ and organizations’ economy.” The committee is open to anyone, although members must attend 75% of all meetings to have voting rights. There are so many people involved in making Flekkefest happen that the fear of omitting anyone has led this author to believe that just naming Myron-Rustan, Kastner, and Hermes, the current chairwoman, treasurer and secretary, respectively, is the safest thing to do. (See photo for some of the women involved this year.)
Missy speaks for the entire committee when she states emphatically that she “believes in our mission! Being on the committee has been so rewarding for me because of the relationships I’ve developed. This is different than working with others as business owners. We’re all working together for the benefit of our community. We have some very talented, wonderful people that are working together. Now I can call them friends. That’s the best part of being on the committee.”
And in the end, this sense of community is what town festivals like Flekkefest are all about. Whether you are up to your eyeballs in responsibilities for what happens that weekend, are coming home to visit family and friends, or dropping in from out of town just to see what’s going on, you are participating in the creation and support of community. Granted, in this case building community might involve you being chased by an ugly troll calling out to you “Mama, Mama! I finally found my mama!”