Feb. 12, 2007

The early years of Good Neighbor Days

This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the celebration

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

If you were lucky enough to have experienced some of the first Good Neighbor Days celebrations almost 30 years ago in Howard Lake, chances are you have several memorable stories to share.

Some very interesting events took place in those early years that are no longer part of the celebration, or have been brought back in a different form such as an “anything goes” contest, “donkey ball,” a public street auction, an outdoor turkey roast, and a lakeshore jog.

Anything goes contest

For this contest, participants compete at games and stunts, trying to outdo one another in time and effort.

Neighboring towns sent teams to compete against the Howard Lake team. A finals round took place the following day.

A team from Howard Lake won the first Good Neighbor Days Anything Goes contest. Team members were: Al Lorentz, Marlene Lorentz, Trudy Gruenhagen, Rory Ostgulen, Rob Painschab, Jane Zander, Patty Munson, and Ray Munson, according to Diane Zander in the Howard Lake Herald.

A team from Waverly took second place that first year, and a team from Cokato placed third.

Don Gutzke was the emcee at the event.

Donkey ball

This contest consisted of a team of businessmen versus a team of farmers riding donkeys as they tried to play baseball, according to long-time resident John Ringold.

The game took place at Memorial Park. A person would have to sit on a donkey while hitting the ball, then ride to first base on the donkey, and then switch donkeys at each base, according to Ringold.

“The donkeys were trained to do something else, like buck you off, so it made making it to the next base a real challenge,” he said.

“Some of the young businessmen and farmers at the time were Jim Ittel, Johnny Custer, Mark Custer, Gary Hagemann, Lowell Schrupp, Steve Berg, and myself,” Ringold said.

“There was no messing with Lowell Schrupp. One time, he hit the ball, tried to get on the donkey but it wouldn’t let him, so he picked up that donkey and walked to first base with it in his arms,” Ringold laughed.

“Steve Berg’s donkey took off over the hill one time and we didn’t see him for an hour,” Ringold laughed again.

“I do believe the farmers always won,” Marilyn Ringold laughed.

Crazy auction

The radio station KRWC sponsored a public street auction, called Crazy Auction, consisting of merchandise purchased from local businesses.

People were encouraged to listen to the radio station to hear more details about the sale.

Outdoor turkey roast

More than 1,100 people were served a turkey dinner at the first Good Neighbor Days.

It was reported that attendees watched 42 turkeys being roasted in the open before the dinner.

Church sermons similar

“The spiritual touch was added to our event by our local pastors, whose Sunday sermons were all based on ‘Who is my neighbor?’ It has been enlightening to hear the favorable comments by those attending the various churches,” reported by the Howard Lake Herald June 23, 1977.

Lakeshore jog

This event was in its second annual year when the first Good Neighbor Days came into existence.

“We had 24 participants in all – four ladies and 20 men. Everyone finished the race and a good time was had by all,” Gordon Gruenhagen reported in the Howard Lake Herald.

The winners in each division were:

Men age 26 and over: first place, Chuck Burrows from St. Paul; second place, Steve Hoag from Minneapolis.

Men age 25 and under:

First place, Paul Rather from Minneapolis; second place, Bob Paradis from Willmar.

Ladies Division:

First place, Julie Virkus from St. Louis Park; second place, Carla Munson from Howard Lake.

The overall order of finishing was: Chuck Burrows, Steve Hoag, Bob Spillman, Paul Rather, Doug Edmunson, Don Weida, Arlan Sunn, Rick Recker, Bob Paradis, Roger Olson, Gus Virkus, Kenneth Koch, Beryl Munson, Lee Taylor, John Koppi, Alvin Speigner, Gordon Gruenhagen, Julie Virkus, Carla Munson, Gary Schwartz, Mary Ellen Woullet, Elaine Cole, Mike Olson, and Tim Grames.

How GND got its start

The June 16, 1977 issue of the Howard Lake Herald stated, “Good Neighbor Days were specially created for our town by the business people for you in this community to get together with your next door neighbor, or the one whom you seldom see, and to get acquainted and re-acquainted with the business people.”

The first annual Good Neighbor Days celebration was June 17-19, 1977, and this summer’s event will mark its 30th year anniversary.

“The Howard Lake Business Association, a body of local retail businessmen of the late ‘70s, created the idea of the Good Neighbor Days celebration in appreciation to their customers and to encourage new customers to our town,” said Marilyn Ringold.

“The initial idea was then passed on to a sub-committee, Good Neighbor Days Committee, a few years later. Today the Good Neighbor Days Committee works with the ‘Fired-Up’ Lions (a combination of the Howard Lake Firemen and the Howard Lake Lions) and the Royal Ambassador Committee to create the annual event,” Ringold said.

Once a month, the Herald Journal, with the help of John and Marilyn Ringold, will be publishing a commemorative article about the event leading up to its anniversary this June 21-24.

Stories, memories, and ideas welcome

If you have something to add about the early days of Good Neighbor Days, please contact either Marilyn Ringold at (320) 543-3630 or Jennifer Gallus at (320) 485-2535.

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