The Chatfield Saddle Club, along with the Chatfield Commercial Club, was instrumental to the beginning of Western Days in 1967.
The Chatfield Saddle Club, along with the Chatfield Commercial Club, was instrumental to the beginning of Western Days in 1967.
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Chatfield’s been going Western for nigh unto half a century.

How’d ya like that, pardner?

“There was a quarter horse show on the John Ward farm where Hammells live now, and there were a lot of people coming in. There was nothing to feed them, so the Commercial Club was asked if it would be interested in helping,” recalled the late Hank Anderson, grand marshal of the 42nd annual Western Days parade, former Chatfield Commercial Club member and one of the Chatfield citizens who attended the very first Western Days celebration in 1967.

“The Commercial Club met to see what there was to do, and Jim Perkins took the parade because that was the big thing to plan back then,” Anderson said. “Jim said that if somebody wanted to be in the parade, they either had to have a horse, something horse-drawn or walk.”

Anderson’s account went on, “Western Days was held on the John Ward farm because there was a circus that left a collapsed tent behind that somehow ended up at the Catholic garage, and we put it up and put it up again when the wind took it down, and the Jaycees also built a plyboard dance floor to put out in the pasture for a dance after the horse show.”

After several years of holding the new celebration under the tent and in the pasture, Ward spoke up to request that the Commercial Club help pay for half of a building he needed to construct on his farm, with the understanding that the club would be allowed to hold Western Days observances there for the next decade.

“We were there for, I think, 12 years, then he said it was enough, so we moved it down to Mill Creek Park. The first year we had Western Days, Jim Perkins and I sold 350 buttons by ourselves,” Anderson said.

Half a century later, Chatfield still saddles up for an annual celebration held the second weekend of August, and the crowds have grown to draw cowpokes and cowgirls from far and wide with a sharp-shootin’ range of activities and events to keep everyone happy. The festivities include the grand parade featuring horses and riders, dances, concerts, a car and truck show, a carnival and craft market in the park, bingo, mutton bustin’, good vittles and a fireworks finale high in the sky on Sunday evening.

Each year, the Western Days poster boasts, “Something for everyone! Don’t miss these Western Days activities!”

This year’s festivities begin Thursday, Aug. 10, and last right up until Sunday, Aug. 13. The grand parade at high noon on Saturday, Aug. 12, promises at the beginnin’ the soldiers returned home from overseas – fine men who braved leaving home and hearth, followed by the Grand Marshal, Chatfield Saddle Club member Kenny Woltz, and the honorary Grand Marshals, Percy and Paula Bessingpas, owners of a fix-it shop and a little mercantile dealing in used goods. The parade will also include a few men and women politickin’ and some stout children and their faithful hounds. There may even be a frightful-lookin’ man-eatin’ plant and its accompanying theatre pardners who are puttin’ on a show at Potter Auditorium all weekend.

There’re plenty of opportunities to ride high on the horse, or at least watch ‘em trot – the Minnesota Horse and Pony Pullers hitch up on Friday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. at Mill Creek Park to see who can haul the biggest load of rectangular rocks. The Chatfield Saddle Club offers up its royalty contest on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 10 a.m. and its horse show on Sunday, Aug. 13, at 8 a.m., both at the Mill Creek Park arena. For those who want to go out into the woods, there’s the Chatfield Saddle Club trail ride on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 6 p.m. sharp.

Newfangled machines – tractors, they call ‘em – are lined up for show at the doctor’s office, Olmsted Medical Center, on Saturday and Sunday, courtesy of the Chatfield FFA Alumni, and they’re takin’ a trip down the road to roll past the elders at the care center at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening.

Other non-horse-powered horsepower things to do include the ATV trail ride at 5 p.m. on Friday at the ATV trailhead lot on Route 74 east of Chatfield and the 23rd annual Western Days Stampede foot race.

And after – only after the drivin’ and the runnin’ is done, stop in at the beer garden at the fire hall on Saturday and Sunday to guzzle a pint poured up by the Chatfield fire department.

The young ’uns have their own doin’s, like the coin find for the short stacks, 10 and under, and the pedal pull on Sunday, Aug. 13, at 11 a.m. on the St. Mary’s church corner, thanks to Hammell Equipment Co. and Computer Danamics. Registration for pedalin’ starts at 10:30 a.m.

Also, if they’ve never busted a mutton, now’s the time to git on and git goin’ – Aug. 10 down at Mill Creek Park at 7 p.m. Signup for little’uns 5 years old up to 8 years old and 75 pounds and under starts at 6:30 p.m., and the kickin’ sheep git out of the gate at 7 p.m.

And oh, the vittles in the city square park…wander on by with some change in hand for barbecued chicken, lemonade, kettle corn and so much more to fill the belly.

Longtime Chatfield resident F. Mike Tuohy said he makes sure to stay around for Western Days. “Every community needs an annual celebration, and we picked this week as it just seemed to fit,” he explained. “It’s exciting walking the park and visiting folks coming home for our celebration and those who live here that we just seldom see. The 50th anniversary of Western Days is exciting just to see folks like that. We are a vital community and always growing in a well-planned manner, a great place to live or come back to feel at home. One must come to experience the fun of a friendly small town which is in the heart of our great country.”

Carmen Narveson, who’s in charge of the grand old tradition of wavin’ a baton to keep the Chatfield Brass Band playin’, had her own things to say. “It’s an annual reunion for many Chatfield families, friends and classmates, a time to highlight and celebrate everything that makes Chatfield a great place to live and be ‘from’,” she said. “There is so much to do and see, and something for everyone – music, theatre, shopping, sports, parties, dances, food, horse shows, car shows, bingo and more. We are fortunate to have many organizations, businesses and individuals that support the Western Days activities. The committee coordinates all of the events and does a fantastic job of making Western Days weekend a success.”

And Steve Rowland, a local roper who digs for water for a livin’, said, “I believe that it is important to show off our ‘Chosen Valley’ as well as our quality of life. We have a community that we should be very proud of, and it doesn’t hurt to have others know about it. The quality of life we are so fortunate to experience here…good schools, ‘mostly’ kind and considerate people, and just a beautiful place to live, with wildlife, trees, rivers, creeks, parks, landscape and downtown. Fifty years of a celebration is remarkable. It is also the 50th year of my graduation from Chosen Valley High School.”

Rowland has been part of the Western Days Committee – the posse that plans it all – for quite some years now, so he doesn’t git to do everything he wants, but he’s sure glad everyone else does.

“Unfortunately, I am quite busy during Western Days, but I guess my favorite thing is attending the Wits’ End Theater annual production,” he said. “I very much enjoy their efforts and the performance quality that they seem to be able to maintain from year to year, and attending the performance gives me a chance to catch my breath during Chatfield Western Days. I am just thankful that I am able to continue to do a very small part in making Chatfield Western Days the very best community celebration in southeastern Minnesota!”

For more dirt on what’s happening at the 50th annual Western Days celebration, git out that entertainment typewriter and pound out www.ci.chatfield.mn.us, then click on the Chatfield Western Days button to the right, or ring up Western Days secretary Pam Bluhm at 507-867-3870 or send a telegraph to chatwesterndays@gmail.com