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Colfax Sesquicentennial: No rain on our parade

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  After a little more than a year of planning, the Colfax Sesquicentennial has now come and gone.

And for the most part, the four-day celebration went along exactly as planned.

The kick-off event in Tower Park Thursday evening was attended by about 150 people.

The Colfax Railroad Museum was busy pretty much all weekend with visitors taking tours.

The Vintage Base Ball (two words) game on Friday night at the Colfax Fairgrounds between the Menomonie Blue Caps and the Colfax 150s was a ton of fun, from both a spectator’s point of view and from a player’s point of view.

The Colfax 150s lost 17 to 13, but they enjoyed playing base ball by rules in use during the 1860s — the same time period that settlers began founding Colfax.

The Civil War living history display at the fairgrounds was both educational and enjoyable. Visitors were able to learn more about the Civil War, the artillery, blacksmithing, and how ordinary people lived during the 1860s.

Harold Walters, the gentleman who brought the cannon, mortar and long guns, shot off the cannon several times and would shoot the mortar or the gun (all with blank charges, of course) at the request of visitors.

The noise from a single charge was practically deafening, so it is difficult to imagine what it must have been like on an actual Civil War battlefield with many cannons, mortars and long guns all going off at the same time. You cannot help but wonder if Civil War veterans came home with permanent hearing loss, never mind their horses.

At the time that settlers were settling Colfax, the Civil War was in full swing.

The pig roast at Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center Friday evening sold out of food quite a while before they were scheduled to finish serving at 8 p.m.

And the pancake breakfast on Saturday morning at the fairgrounds was a great success. Those doing the food preparation reportedly ran out of sausage and pancake mix and had to buy more.

The arts and craft show at the fairgrounds Saturday morning also appeared to be quite successful with about two dozen vendors and a steady stream of visitors.

Saturday morning also featured the dedication of a memorial and inscription at Hill Grove Cemetery for J.D. Simons, founder of Colfax. For whatever reason, Mr. Simons never had a stone placed at the cemetery for him.

Troy Knutson, Colfax historian, raised money through donations from the community and from descendants of Mr. Simons.

The dedication ceremony was attended by about 20 people, and Mr. Simons’ family members expressed gratitude that their relative no longer was resting in an unmarked grave.

As for the parade, well — it did not rain on our parade!

Just prior to the start of the parade at Colfax High School at 11 a.m., dark clouds moved in from the west.

The clouds swung around to the north, and the rest of the day the sky remained either overcast with hazy sunshine or cloudy.

The temperature Saturday afternoon was in the mid-80s, with a nice breeze out of the south, and a relatively low humidity.

All together, well over 100 units (and maybe closer to 150) took part in the Colfax Sesquicentennial parade, including horses, tractors, units from local businesses, the Founder’s Float, several political candidates and a number of classic cars.

Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith took the lead in the parade on horse back.

Grand marshals Ray and Marlene Johnson (representing Ray’s Metal Works), and Melvina Evenson (representing Solberg’s Ready-to-Wear) rode in a carriage pulled by two black draft horses owned and driven by Bill Miller of Menomonie.

The carriage stopped at the end of Main Street so the grand marshals could watch the rest the parade.

For more than an hour (about an hour and 15 minutes or so) the parade made its way from the school, to downtown Main Street, and on Railroad Avenue to the fairgrounds.

Parade-watchers lined the street from the school to downtown and from the Cenex corner part of the way to fairgrounds.

Right in the middle of downtown, parade-watchers were lined up three and four deep.

When the parade was over, the classic and antique cars parked on Main Street, and parade watchers headed toward River Street to look at the cars along the way and to find their chicken dinners, corn-on-the-cob, boiled buttered red potatoes, pulled pork sandwiches, and to maybe wash it all down with a beer, water or soda pop.

Downtown remained crowded for the rest of the afternoon.

The firefighters’ water barrel fights at 2 p.m. on West River Street were particularly popular. Spray from the fire departments’ hoses reached Main Street in a fine mist and may have felt good to those who had been out in the sun and felt a little overheated.

Jim Nelson, a Scandinavian folk singer with family ties to Colfax, performed in the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Nelson’s performance was to a full house. He is a skilled musician, and the old upright grand piano had not sounded as well for a long time — at least not since Friday afternoon when Jon Simpson of New London gave an impromptu concert at the Municipal Building auditorium.

In the evening, at 6 p.m., Herrick and Friends began playing from a stage in front of the Colfax Health Mart.

Also at 6 p.m., members of The Dweebs began setting up on a stage across the street in front of the Commercial Testing Laboratory.

The Dweebs played downtown from 9 p.m. until midnight.

The crowd downtown remained fairly steady throughout the evening, although food at the food stand ran out at a little after 7 p.m.

The Holden Lutheran Church 150th anniversary service and dinner on Sunday ended up with a packed church for the service and many people staying for the dinner.

So, do you think we should have a street dance again next year?

What about a parade?

Pancake breakfast?

Art and craft show?

What else?

Maybe we could call it something like Viking Day?

Or what about “The Viking Invasion?”