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Algona Founders’ Day

ALGONA — If you’ve ever wondered what trees would say if they could talk, you’ll love Founders’ Day Celebration next week.

The 20th annual celebration this year will ramp up artistic receptions, amplify the voices that settled Algona and bring friends and families together for unofficial reunions that make the summer event a hit with attendance almost as great as the town’s population.

This year’s BBQ Showdown will feature a new children’s division for pit masters age 11 and under, who will cook on mini charcoal grills provided, and take them home as a prize. For the big kids and children at heart, age 18 and older, a much bigger prize awaits the winner. The prize, decided by a vote, will be determined by the amount of tickets sold for the event. Last year’s top prize was $1,000 — nothing to sneeze at for the average barbecuer.

“That’s something neat, it will add some fun,” said Mayor Lynn Kueck.

Voices From The Past will be amplified this year, the third running year for the event, with actors in full authentic period costume to narrate the voices of Algona’s founding men and women. This year’s featured voices include John and Mary Blackford, who helped run the town’s first lumberyard, and Willard and Ella Thompson, who donated millions to Algona Community School District for scholarships which continue to benefit graduating students today.

Groups will rotate between the featured voices to learn about four of Algona’s founders. Actors have been practicing since winter learning about the people whose lives they’ll give attendees a 15-minute glimpse into.

The event be available in two locations: once on Thursday evening by the cemetery gravestones of the deceased for added authenticity, and once at an indoor location on Sunday to include those with mobility issues.

Kueck credits Fort Dodge historian Roger Natte for the idea.

“He said it’d be a neat idea to go into a cemetery and bring some of our forefathers and foremothers alive again via actors and actresses.” said Kueck. “It’s proved to be a neat thing.”

But actors won’t be the only ones talking. The mayor himself will be narrating the accounts of trees from their own perspective. One tree, at 140 years old, will narrate what it’s seen in the two-block radius of its location since it was planted there, illustrating the evolution and progression of Algona.

Artistic works will also play a more prominent role in this year’s Founders’ Day with tweaks to give art the place Algona thinks it deserves. Thirty-three fine artists from Iowa and Minnesota will feature their work for purchase under tents at Carnegie Library.

“This expanded from last year. It’s officially off the ground and an official part of the celebration,” said Kueck, after two years of experimenting with the event at the charge of Stinson Prairie Arts Council. “Too often, we specialize in the athletic area with school sports teams drawing the biggest attention and don’t give enough credit to the fine arts.”

He said planners hope to improve that aspect for the arts by dedicating the entire library lawn to the event.

The street dance celebration downtown on Friday night, which typically draws crowds of 1,500 to 2,000, features Pop Rocks, a six-piece dance band who will play high-energy hits from the ’80s to 2000s.

“Even though we’re a fairly small town, neighbors come up and visit with many kinds of people they haven’t visited with for six months,” Kueck said. “It’s kind of like a big wedding dance. It pulls everybody together.”

Bringing kindred spirits together to stay rooted to the history of Algona is what makes Founders’ Day appeal to a wide audience.

“The more you understand the history of town, the more you feel like it’s your town,” he said. “It feels like roots with the history of where you’re living.”

And when residents feel more rooted, they take more pride in Algona, making it a better place for everyone, he said — giving the mission of the celebration new life each year that carries on the heritage of Algona.

Scout out your plans for next week with a preview of these select highlights.

Thursday

5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Art reception hosted by Stinson Prairie Arts Council at the Gallery at Algona Publishing. Refreshments available.

6:30 p.m.: Founders’ Day Heritage Award at Riverview Cemetery.

6:45 p.m.: Voices From The Past. Witness history come alive in Riverview Cemetery as featured residents of the cemetery share the stories of their lives as settlers in early Algona. Refreshments provided by the Founders’ Day Committee following the presentation. Seating not provided — please bring lawn chairs. Portable restroom available at the cemetery.

Friday

3:30 p.m.: Eyewitness to Algona’s History. A 140-year-old tree has witnessed much of Algona’s history from the northeast side of Bryant school. Mayor Lynn Kueck will share what this tree has observed in its lifetime. Come to Bryant school to hear the stories.

7:30 p.m.: Morwens Kiwanis Talent Show at VFW. Local talent will provide a variety of entertainment.

8:30 to 11:30 p.m.: Pop Rocks. Covering the east to west coast, they are a six-piece dance band with high energy hits, mixed with classics from the ’80s, ’90s, and today — from Bon Jovi to Bruno Mars to Whitney Houston. All ages welcome.

Saturday

9 a.m. and 1 p.m.: River Canoeing Expedition: One- to two-hour outing along the scenic bends of East Fork. Meet at Veterans Park on time. Canoes, supplies, training and transportation provided. Canoeing experience not necessary. Families welcome; children should be 7 or older and accompanied by an adult. Each canoe holds two to three people. Wear closed-toe shoes and pants that can get muddy. No charge; pre-register by 3:30 p.m. Friday. Call 515-295-2138 — space is limited.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Fine Art in the Park by Stinson Prairie Arts Council on the Carnegie Library Lawn at 315 E. Nebraska St. Features artists selling fine art, art activities and a special art sale for children. Hot food, cold drinks and live music by World Port.

2 to 3:15 p.m.: Exploring Wildhaven Campus. Join Mayor Lynn Kueck on a free tour of a beautiful nature setting and its facilities. The walking tour will include visiting the pond, the new lodge, ranger station and a replica of a Sioux Native American Tepee. Mayor Kueck will share true stories of Algona’s past history. The tour will begin at 400 W. Tietz Street. Parking is available.

5:30 to 7 p.m.: BBQ Showdown. Sampling in city parking lot across from Carnegie Library lawn on Nebraska Street. Adult tickets $6, children 10 and under $3. Purchase in advance at Chamber or at the gate.

July 14

8 a.m.: Showboat Open Golf Tournament. River Road Golf Club offers a $200 prize for any hole-in-one. Sponsored by the Founders’ Day Committee. Call 515-295-7351 for tee times.

2 p.m.: Voices From The Past. Witness history come alive as featured residents of Riverview Cemetery share the stories of their lives as settlers in early Algona. Handicapped accessible presentation at the Masonic Hall, 1413 N. McCoy.