by Dennis Dalman
To this day, at the age of 85, Joyce McCann is always surprised when someone from the past recognizes her.
It sometimes happens they remember how, once upon a time, McCann (nee Joyce Yozamp) was a queen – a queen of the 1951 Sartell Winter Haven.
Not too long ago, she was sitting in the Coyote Moon restaurant when she heard conversational buzz from a nearby table of women.
“Look,” one of them said. “There’s Joyce.”
McCann was pleased and shared some words and a few laughs with the women from the past.
“I’m still surprised when people recognize me,” McCann said, with a rippling, effervescent laugh. “I don’t look anything like I used to.”
Some people also recognize McCann from her years of working as a bank teller in a number of banks. She retired more than 20 years ago from her last bank job, which was at St. Cloud National Bank in east St. Cloud.
To this day, 65 years later, McCann feels honored that she was selected from among two dozen area women to serve as Sartell Winter Haven Queen. She vividly remembers how they brought her a royal robe and placed the crown on her head as the crowd applauded her and her two princesses, Sue Smitten and Phyllis Hary.
“I was shocked to be chosen queen,” McCann recalled. “Stunned.”
For one thing, Yozamp was not a Sartell resident. She lived near Rice, in Mayhew Lake Township. However, many other candidates were from other nearby cities, and McCann did have a Sartell connection – a sponsor, a business named Case Floral.
At that time there were, at most, about 800 people who lived in the Village of Sartell.
For being named queen, Yozamp won an all-expenses-paid trip to Sun Valley, Idaho – a mecca for skiers and vacationers – then as now. As queen, she took part in many social appearances, including lots of parades, some of them in midwinter.
The coronation ceremony took place in a large quonset hut built on property of what is now part of Sartell’s Watab Park. Sartell Winter Haven was a “big deal” in the 1950s, McCann recalled. Yozamp was crowned queen during the second of about six annual Winter Haven events. By 1960, the winter festival had ceased to be.
McCann remembers how Winter Haven was a flurry of fun activities for all ages: skiing down the hill to the frozen Watab River, tobogganing, skating on an open rink, sledding, snowball fights and all kinds of other frosty fun in the “good old days,” when snowy winter weather did not last well into April.
The “brains” behind Winter Haven, McCann said, was a priest named the Rev. Edward C. Ramacher. He was a young newcomer as pastor to the relatively new St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell.
Ramacher, who had started a winter festival in Little Falls earlier, decided Sartell needed some healthy, local, inexpensive winter-time fun, especially for younger people. His idea, formulated in 1949, came true in 1950, and the winter festival was an instant success.
“Ramacher was a wonderful, wonderful priest,” said McCann. “And he knew how to get things done. He knew all the big shots, even some in the Twin Cities. Ramacher was quite the promoter. Oh, was he ever!”
Miss Sauk Rapids
Before being chosen Winter Haven Queen, Joyce, who had been born and raised in Sauk Rapids, daughter of Paul and Eloise Yozamp, was named Miss Sauk Rapids 1951.
When she was a young teenager, her family moved from Sauk Rapids to a farm in Mayhew Lake Township when her father developed a lung disease from working in the granite industry. Yozamp graduated from Sauk Rapids High School.
At the time of her Winter Haven coronation, Yozamp had been engaged to a St. Cloud man, Don McCann. After her reign, after he returned from military service in Korea, they were married. He worked for a phone company, and so the couple had to move quite often, living in numerous cities, including their early years together as a married couple in North Dakota.
During those years, Joyce worked as a clerk in many banks, city to city.
“I loved that job because I like people so much,” she said.
She and Don loved to travel when they’d get time off from their jobs. After retirement, they always “wintered” in Pharr, Texas.
Sadly, her husband died just two days before Christmas Day 2001. His nephew, Jack McCann, lives in Sartell.
“I miss my husband so much,” Joyce said. “He was such a gem of a guy.”
McCann’s lifelong hobby was golf. She also did a lot of sewing. She now lives in St. Cloud.
“Church is a big thing in my life,” she noted. “I’ve been a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud for many, many years. I love that church.”
Sartell resident/researcher/historian Joyce Gelle gives readers glimpses of Winter Haven in text and photos in a chapter of Sartell’s 100th-anniversary memorial-history book titled “Lumber, Paper and Progress,” published in 2006.
The Sartell Winter Haven grand opening ceremony took place Feb. 18, 1950, and was attended by many celebrities, including Minnesota Gov. Luther Youngdahl, who opened the playgrounds by raising a U.S. flag made by Mrs. Ann “Ma” Bernick. The inaugural event included special dinners, speeches and music.
The quonset hut constructed was 120 feet long and 40 feet wide, known as Sunset Lodge. The lodge also served as a roller-skating rink, with a stage and concession stand.
Winter Haven, Gelle wrote, was such a success that on Sundays special “Snow Trains” arrived from the Twin Cities, bringing up to 1,000 young people who enjoyed taking part in skating contests and other fun activities, such as parades that featured marching bands, a drum corps and hand-waving royalty, one of which, once upon a time, was Sartell Winter Haven Queen Joyce Yozamp.