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MRP celebrates 100 Years of Memories

Sunday, June 28th, offered as fine of weather seen at any of the Mouse River Park events of the past century, and proved to be the perfect day to celebrate “100 Years of Memories.”

7/08/09 (Wed)


Sunday, June 28th, offered as fine of weather seen at any of the Mouse River Park events of the past century, and proved to be the perfect day to celebrate “100 Years of Memories.”


The Mouse River Park Centennial was opened in grand style at noon with a parade featuring over 30 entries, including several individuals and their vehicles, the Tolley ambulance and fire crews, local businesses like Wes’s Bar, the Renville Elevator Company, the Country Mouse, and the Mouse River Park Cafe, and area fans of the park such as the City of Kenmare, MTI, SRT, Farmers Union Oil, the Flower House Garden Center and more. Children and adults alike lined the gravel road winding along the river and around the park’s center, applauding the gymnasts from CheerMagic in Minot, the draft horses driven by Denny Osterberg, antique tractors, and the parade’s grand marshals, Duane and Louise Stark of Tolley.


Some visitors swamped the commemorative T-shirt table, while others scrambled to buy their copies of a Mouse River Park centennial history book printed by Park resident Carolyn Ogroske of Mandan. The cafe was packed to overflowing, and children lined up to ride the merry-go-round and play on the swings.


By 2 pm, though, events shifted to the auditorium, where a stage bedecked in red, white and blue and bouquets of fresh cut peonies hosted a variety of musical talent from the area, emceed by Louise Stark, for the 73rd annual program of the Renville County Old Settlers Association.


Stark offered a brief summary of the Park’s history, including the story of local homesteader Andrew Kragh, who was hired by Emily Grinnell during the summers of 190 and 1908 to clear the park area of horse and cattle manure before the area was platted. The program included musical styles from country to classical, and gospel to patriotic, with a bit humor thrown in by the Soggy Mouse River Boys Joe Ethen, Duane Stark and Les Randash performing “Man of Constant Sorrows” in costume.


Jim Mayfield of Burlington made his first appearance at the auditorium, while Chris Rogers of Maxbass showed why he will open for Toby Keith at the WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN, later this summer. Shelbi Schollmeyer’s unaccompanied voice resounded during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, while the tones of accordions filled the hall by the Prairie Pals and the duo of Muriel Brandt and Roy Saylor.


The always-popular Dakota Rose Band, with Larry Nelson, Karen Rath and Floyd Borud, performed a few crowd favorites, including an up-tempo rendition of “Home Sweet Home,” and violinist Donna Randash charmed the audience with two solos, accompanied by Pastor Norman Paskowsky at the keyboard.


Mabel Perron, age 99 of Mohall, won the title of Queen for the Old Settlers Association, while Hugh Hiley of Mohall and Finn Hellebust of Tolley were both crowned king at age 89.


The program closed with a memorial moment for Mathilda Smith, the last charter member of the Renville County Old Settlers Association who died this past year at the age of 107. Stark also read from her original poem, “The Pioneers,” which closed with the lines:


Their faith never faltered

On the North Dakota sod.

They kept their vows sacred

And their faith in God.


Beverly Aper of Klamath Falls, Oregon, and the granddaughter of Andrew Kragh, was delighted with the day and the focus on Mouse River Park’s history. Aper, who grew up in Minot, has been coming to the Park for years, starting with visits to her grandparents’ farm a quarter mile east of the bridge. “We used to come down here and rollerskate,” she said. “That’s when my parents would give me a nickel to buy a candy bar.”


Aper heard the stories from her mother about her grandparents’ involvement with the park’s origin. “Originally, there was no bridge, so they built a walking bridge across the river for people coming from the east,” she said. Her grandmother cooked meals for the bridge workers, and her grandfather capitalized on the opportunity by feeding and watering, for a fee, the horses left in his yard while their owners and riders enjoyed a day at the park.


Aper’s mother, Alice Kragh Hunter, started working in the park cafe, still in the original building, when she was 15 years old. Alice and her siblings also stored and washed the wooden platforms people rented to set their tents on during summer camping trips.


“My grandpa and grandma moved here in 1905 and had seven kids on the farm,” Aper said. “The Park helped raise those kids.”


Aper, who is a retired teacher, tries to return to Minot every summer to see her high school and college friends and to visit Mouse River Park. “I have so many sentimental feelings toward the Park,” she said.


Many of her memories were provided by her mother’s stories, told on Sundays in Klamath Falls, OR, when her mother would join her to watch the television broadcasts of the “Lawrence Welk Show.” “She remembered all the little details,” Aper said. “I’m so glad I have all that information!”


While Aper and other guests were recalling their own memories of Mouse River Park, new memories were being made as families camped together, rode their bicycles on the Park’s roads, or tried their hand at fishing in the river. The gazebo will host several weddings this summer, and efforts continue to raise money to support a paving project for the Park’s main road.


Mouse River Park may have celebrated its first 100 years, but present and future park visitors will write the next chapters of the Park’s story.