by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
Float is one of the multi purpose words in the English language. Need a loan?? Maybe a buddy or a pawn shop will float you one til payday. Mixing a scoop of ice cream with a glass of root beer will produce a float. My dad used to call that thing you put on your fishing line to let you know when you got a nibble a float. We used to just call them bobbers.
But it’s summertime, and that means tons of festivals around the state. Festivals that honor everything from the big city of lakes, to an annual soybean or sunflower harvest within the rich plains of Minnesota farm country. Growing up in Hopkins, we were entertained annually by the Hopkins Raspberry Festival. Many residences had raspberry bushes in their yards, and raspberries were commercially grown on the outskirts of Hopkins, south of Shady Oak Lake. My first job was picking raspberries. We would fill a crate of 8 pints of berries and bring them to the farmer. He would empty one pint onto the other seven and tell us they weren’t full enough. Then he would credit us for seven pints with tickets and we went back to the field to pick more. The farmer would then refill the eighth pint after we left to add 6 cents profit to his pocket. But what did we know? We were 10 - 12 years old and there was no raspberry pickers union.
But the money we did earn went into our pockets until Raspberry Days came to town in July. The festival was actually started in 1934, 6 years before the Minneapolis Aquatennial! The carnival would come to town, and we would play the Skill Cranes for a dime, and even bet a dime on the wheel to try to win a pack of Lucky Strikes. Yeah, we were 12, but the carneys didn’t care, as long as we had a dime. Then on Sunday came the Grand Day Parade. In the 50s and 60s it was a great event, because it came one week after the Minneapolis Aquatennial. Many of the bands and floats participated in both parades. The floats didn’t have thousands of flowers on them like in Pasadena, but they were still adorned with great themes and colorful glitter and crepe paper. The marching bands were great, the Raspberry princesses were beautiful, and the Zurrah Temple added those fantastic Harleys, and the riders would run the figure 8 pattern along the parade route. I have a friend who is one of the Shriners who still make those rounds performing in the parades around the state.
There are hundreds more festivals now, and I suppose the talent has gotten diluted a bit, but I’ll also always remember the Kolacky Days festival in Montgomery, Mn. This small Czech settled town on Highway 19 between Northfield and Waseca has had that event for years. Evidently the Czechs have the best Kolacky recipes in the world.
Whatever your summertime plans, I hope you can find time to take your family to a parade. I’ll be in Hopkins on July 17 for the Raspberry Grand Day Parade. This year with an added twist. 30 or 40 of my eighth grade graduate classmates from St. Joe’s are gathering at the Church to watch the parade and celebrate 50 years since we were berry pickers. Maybe I’ll see you there.