By Jennifer Von Ohlen
COKATO, MN During a typical year, the Cokato Corn Carnival equipment is packed up and off site by noon the day following the end of the three-day celebration, which occurred this year Aug. 8 through Aug. 10.
However, the carnival received 5 to 6 inches of rain during its final night this year, which made the ground and equipment too wet to retrieve on the carnival’s regular schedule.
To allow more time for the area to dry out, the equipment was left set-up an extra day.
During the morning of Aug. 12, around 3 a.m., the Elim Mission stand was vandalized. The culprits knocked over the refrigerator and got into the stand’s trailer, throwing around “anything that was loose” and dragging paper products, like napkins and salt packets, through the mud.
The committee met with a Wright County deputy later that morning, and as far as anyone could see, nothing was smashed and no weapon seemed to have been used.
It also does not appear that anything was stolen, though two cases of Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew were found at the memorial just northeast of the carnival grounds.
That night appeared to be “exceptional” for the vandals, as an 80-year-old woman’s garden, located north of town on County Road 4, was “trashed.” Statues and birdbaths were knocked over, and a garbage can was set on fire on Prairie Ave.
Elim Mission Church removed its stand later that day.
The committee worked on removing the rest of its equipment, as well, but due to the ground conditions and wetness of the bingo tent, the committee decided to leave it up over the weekend to allow it to dry out further, intending to pack it up the following Monday, Aug. 15.
That Sunday morning, Cokato Corn Carnival Chair Dorene Erickson received a call that the tent had been vandalized.
The vandals had sliced tent ratchet straps, and pulled out a couple of big posts, which brought a side of the tent down, though not entirely.
Bingo benches and the prize standards were still inside the tent, which would have caught the tent “somewhat” had the vandals done more.
Erickson estimates the damage to the cut straps to be a couple hundred dollars.
“We were just amazed that there was no damage done to the tent itself,” she continued.
Corn Carnival Committee Member Mike Worcester and Erickson explained that the tent is divided into six sections, with rope running through each one to link them together.
It takes four men to lift each section, Erickson said, giving an idea of how heavy each piece is and how much heavier it would have been after all the rain it collected.
If the tent had collapsed on the vandals, Erickson said she does not think they would have survived.
Despite added rain-weight, Worcester said, “we couldn’t risk leaving [the tent] up there again, knowing how brazen [the vandals] had gotten.”
“What made me nervous was that they came back Saturday night with a knife, cutting the straps, meaning a weapon of some kind was involved,” Erickson stated.
Council Member Jarod Sebring, also a member of the Cokato Fire Department, said it is hard to say at this point if the vandals are the same ones who have been vandalizing mailboxes this summer.
“They are mobile, though,” he noted.
Erickson said the committee is seriously considering investing in a security camera(s) for next year’s carnival.
While she acknowledged that the weather caused an unusual schedule for the carnival cleanup, Erickson said, “that doesn’t mean, ‘hey we left our stuff up, come and vandalize.’”
Erickson and Worcester stated that in spite of the frustration, they are thankful none of these occurrences resulted in any injuries.