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New book celebrates history of Dassel’s biggest bash
Oct. 4, 2019

Nancy Dashwood
Staff Writer

DASSEL, MN – Dassel’s Red Rooster has lived a long, long time. This summer, the celebration with the largest chicken BBQ in the state hit 60 years old.

To commemorate the milestone, longtime Dassel Area Historical Society member Maribel Gilmer, with the assistance of other area experts, compiled “Through the Years,” a book that examines Red Rooster’s history from its origins in 1959, to the present.

Gilmer has lived in Dassel nearly her entire life. She was employed in a variety of capacities by both the Dassel Dispatch and the subsequent Enterprise Dispatch for more than three decades; is a charter member of the Dassel Area Historical Society; is an original member of the Village Players theater group; is an active participant at the Dassel Church of Christ; and serves on the Red Rooster Committee.

Information in Gilmer’s book was derived from interviews with locals Dean Gayner, Chris Hanson, and Mary Neu, and the files of the Dassel Dispatch (1959 to 1987), and the Enterprise Dispatch (from 1988 to present.)

Gilmer and her team of volunteers also gleaned information from Don Bollman, Jeanette Servin, Amy Wilde, Dassel History Center staff, and the scrapbooks of Dassel ambassadors

All together, “Through the Years” encompasses nine years of dedicated research.

The book includes pages of information and related photographs from every year of the Red Rooster celebration.

Something to crow about from day one

In the book’s first chapter, entitled “The Beginning,” Gilmer wrote about Red Rooster’s origins.

A committee comprised of locals Dennis Alberts, Verdon Schwatz, Tom Jarl, Dean Gayner, Jack Hardy, Jim Ernhart, Maynard Warne, George Tesch, and Tom Kealy met with the Dassel Commercial Club May 20, 1959.

After a lengthy discussion, members of the Commercial Club elected to sponsor the proposed event, and approved a $1,000 donation to assist with getting the celebration to fly.

In “Through the Years,” Gilmer wrote that the “Red Rooster” moniker came about for several reasons. At the time, Dassel dubbed itself “the seed corn and chick center of the northwest.” The committee also planned to serve chicken to event attendees.

The Red Rooster name seemed like a good fit, and a logo was designed which featured a rooster standing on a cob of corn.

The first Red Rooster Day took place Sunday, Sept. 6, 1959, at the Dassel Ball Park.

Attendance estimates for the festivities hovered near the 5,000 to 6,000 mark.

The first Red Rooster Day was a financial success, and the committee never touched the Commercial Club’s donation.

Members of the original committee agreed the event should continue.

Rooster grows huge

By the time Red Rooster Days hit 30 in 1989, the multi-day celebration included a parade, a fireworks display, a hymn sing, a horseshoe tournament, helicopter rides, trolley rides, garage sales, and speaker Bill Holm, a well-known Minnesota author.

“Through the Years’s” epilogue includes a big-picture overview of the event’s history.

Summaries covering the Red Rooster queens, events and activities, and the chicken BBQ fill the section.

A complete listing of royalty, ambassadors, and Aquatennial Commodore’s Award winners wraps up the 256-page tome.

The all-inclusive book is available to purchase

“Through the Years, 1959 - 2019, Red Rooster Celebration in Dassel,” is available for purchase at the Dassel History Center and at Dassel City Hall. Book price is $20.

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