June 18, 2007

A peek into the very first Good Neighbor Days

Four area businessmen originally started Good Neighbor Days in 1977

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

While enjoying some coffee and playing dice at the old Munson Bakery 30 years ago, four Howard Lake men manufactured an idea for a town celebration, that is, Good Neighbor Days.

Those men were Gary Hagemann, Tom Main, Welton Zander, and the late Clayton Perry.

A customer appreciation-type event had occurred two years earlier at the fairgrounds and the group of men decided they wanted to do something similar, but more involved, according to Hagemann.

“We came up with all the events for the first Good Neighbor Days in one morning. We just had to get people to do it,” Hagemann said.

The idea was readily accepted by the town’s businessmen and civic groups.

“As a committee, we wanted it (Good Neighbor Days) to be self sufficient. The first year we were within $20 one way or the other,” Hagemann said.

In fact, the $1 button was all a person needed for admission into any activity including dances and meals. There were 1,335 buttons sold the first year.

“We roasted 42 turkeys all at one time on one continuous spigot and served 1,140 dinners,” Hagemann said as he looked at notes recorded by the late Harriet Zander who was very civic minded.

Ever wonder where that signature handshake logo for Good Neighbor Days came from?

It was a handshake between Welton Zander and George Jones of Howard Lake that was sketched by Doris Luhman.

“Doris came in the bakery while we were planning Good Neighbor Days. We told her the idea (for the logo), and Welton and George sat there with their hands shaking as she sketched it,” Hagemann said.

That first year of Good Neighbor Days and for several more, there were two simultaneous dances going on in both the upstairs of the city hall, as well as a street dance.

“It was a great time. People would go back and forth. One dance (in the city hall) was old-time and one (the street dance) was rock-n-roll,” Hagemann said.

“People in the bar at the city hall thought the ceiling was going to come down,” Howard Lake resident John Ringold laughed.

“And there were reports of bags of potato chips falling off of racks,” he added.

The first year of Good Neighbor Days also had skydivers land in Memorial Park.

“It was a University of Minnesota skydivers club. It was illegal to jump into the ballpark because of the lights, but they did it anyway,” Hagemann laughed.

“We started the softball tournaments in 1979 and had those for many years,” Hagemann said.

Jim Ittel brought a huge sausage that was about eight inches in diameter and three feet long up to bat at one of the games. When he hit the ball with the huge sausage, sawdust flew everywhere, according to Hagemann.

“He must have used regular casing and stuffed it with sawdust,” Hagemann laughed.

A group of high school students called “The Blue Wind” was a local band that would perform on the streets during the celebration, according to Hagemann.

Those students were Mark Gleason, Carla Munson, Jeff Broll, and Keith Main.

It took close to a year to get the fishing contest approved by the DNR. Rules had to be written and re-written regarding catch and release, proper bait, catch limits, and number of entrants, Hagemann reported.

“Gary and Dennis Bobrowske started the fishing contest in 1982, so this year is the 25th anniversary,” he said.

Steve Berg started the milk carton race that proved to not have an appeal.

“There was one entrant in year one, and two entrants in year two, after that we didn’t do it,” Hagemann laughed.

This year’s 30th celebration

Thursday kicks off the 30th anniversary celebration of Good Neighbor Days, which is sure to be a hit.

The Fired Up Lions have scheduled plenty of food, games, and entertainment for the event.

The Fired Up Lions is a committee that formed about five years ago with members from both the Howard Lake Fire Department and the Howard Lake Lions Club - thus the name Fired Up Lions.

In addition to scheduling the food, entertainment, and games, the group takes care of the parade setup, and a lot of the behind-the-scenes details.

Button-selling businesses

Businesses that are selling Good Neighbor Days buttons are: Emmy’s Salon, Bergie’s Pizza and Subs, Howard Lake Drug, For Your Paws Only, Grandpa Ittel’s Meats, Howard Lake Greens, Howard Lake Municipal, Joe’s Sport Shop, Old Towne Gallery, Stellar Health and Preferred Chiropractic, Security State Bank of Howard Lake, Shape & Style, Sunni’s Grille, at the Orphan’s Baseball Tournament, and each of the 11 royal team candidates.

“I really appreciate the businesses that are selling buttons, as well as those people who found past buttons for me and dropped them off at the drug store,” said Good Neighbor Days Committee member Marilyn Ringold.

Many people have responded to the requests for buttons in past Good Neighbor Days reminiscent articles, and have delivered buttons to Ringold.

Those who brought in buttons were: George Jones, Betty Hatrick, Arnie Zahratka, Fran Piehl, Delores Glessing, and Larry Mahlstedt.

Ringold collects the buttons and is still seeking more, especially for the years 1985, and 1990 through 1994.

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