My mind often brims over with fond memories of Sauk Rapids.
Although I was born in south St. Cloud, right by the college, my Dad would often bring us kids to Sauk Rapids, especially when he would pick up bottled milk from the Sauk Rapids Dairy.
Later, Sauk Rapids Lions Park became one of my family’s favorite places to visit. We kids used to love to go there to watch the ducks cavorting in the river and waddling up the river bank to gobble up the bread crumbs we’d toss to them. Mom would always save stale “day-old” bread just for the river ducks.
When they became older, my parents enjoyed bringing their dog, Dill, over to that park where they would sit for hours, relaxing, throwing sticks for Dill to fetch. Every time they’d return from their park visit, I could swear they looked mysteriously, suddenly younger.
My favorite memories of Sauk Rapids have to do with the Benton County Fair. Every summer we and our neighbor friends loved nothing better than to go to the county fair. Sometimes our dad or their dads would drive us to the fair, but more often than not we’d walk the long route, across the 10th Street bridge, which was near our neighborhood and then past Grandpa and Grandma Dalman’s little house north of Selke Field and then northward along the pleasant residential roads all the way to the fairgrounds.
Wild with excitement, clutching our sweaty dimes and quarters (a quarter bought a lot in those days – the 1950s and 1960s), we’d stroll the midway, relishing its riot of garish colors (especially after dark), its calliope music, its swarms of people and its wonderful aromas wafting everywhere: popcorn, corn dogs, hamburgers and the almost sickly sweet but delectable smell of gooey cotton candy.
And then there were all those fun arcade games. We loved to play the “crane” machine, manipulating a mini-crane that, if you were skillful enough, would grab little toys inside the glass box.
While playing the arcade games, we made sure to save enough for the thrilling rides: the Octopus, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Ferris Wheel and that terrifying monster, the Bullet. The first time I rode that, it was Dad who coaxed me to ride with him. I freaked out, certain I was heading straight to death. I was so thankful when my feet were back on the ground, I almost bent down and kissed the sawdust dirt. But, go figure, I rode the Bullet again a few days later with my brother, and again and again through the years. I was scared every time and loved every minute of it.
Another highlight of the fair was to visit the big places that housed the farm animals, the fish and fowl. Being city slickers, most animals were so alien-looking to us kids, and we’d gawk at them as if they were aliens from another planet. I’m sure the animals gawked back at us the same way.
Those were such happy summer days, those days at the Benton County Fair. To this day, I love going to that fair every summer. What a nostalgia rush it is to go there, like reliving memories of a lifetime so far away and yet right in the here and now.
I also love the Benton County Fairgrounds because in our teen years, we kids would often go to the dances there in the Benton County Ballroom. My mother worked there Friday and Saturday nights as a waitress, along with our good neighbors Alma Fahnhorst and her husband, John, who was a bouncer at the ballroom. We kids loved to go there and hear the bands, many of them local, like the Green Men, who sported dyed green hair long before the Age of Punk. We kids would also sometimes spike our Coca-Colas with pints of whiskey we’d smuggle in, pints filched from parents’ liquor cabinets. Luckily, we never got caught.
Nowadays, I still enjoy going to Sauk Rapids. I often shop at the Coborn’s store there, which is my favorite Coborn’s in the area. The new Dollar Store is also a good place to shop, if you’re into bargains, and who isn’t these days?
Lions Park just isn’t what it used to be on account of the new bridge. I was peeved about that new bridge, but once it was built, I’m all for it. Contrary to what I’d thought, it enhanced – not ruined – the downtown Sauk Rapids area.
I’m happy I’ll get to cover Sauk Rapids issues in this newspaper, and I’m eager to meet and write about the many interesting people who live in that city. If you have any ideas for stories, please call me at 320-363-7741.