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Harvest Days: The good old days revisited

David Babbott spent part of Saturday morning marveling at the ingenuity that went into production of the 1916 Case steam-driven tractor. "It's living Americana, that's what it is," Babbott said as he watched Bob Jostad of Kindred, N.D., tinkering...

David Babbott spent part of Saturday morning marveling at the ingenuity that went into production of the 1916 Case steam-driven tractor.

"It's living Americana, that's what it is," Babbott said as he watched Bob Jostad of Kindred, N.D., tinkering inside the gates of Bonanzaville in preparation for West Fargo's West Fest parade.

Babbott, of Burlington, Vt., was among a busload of retired physicians and spouses who stopped at West Fargo's frontier-town attraction for its first-ever Harvest Days.

The event runs again today from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $4, but free for children 5 and younger.

The retired physicians -- internists belonging to the American College of Physicians -- get together annually for bus tours. Past destinations include: Vermont; Alabama; Banff, Alberta; Vancouver, B.C.; Prague, Czechoslovakia; New Mexico; Utah; and Atlanta.

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For many, including Babbott, this was their first visit to North Dakota. They were guests here of retired Fargo internist Mack Traynor and his wife, Rita.

Babbott said Bonanzaville reminds him of Shelbourne Farms, a collection of colonial homes and farm buildings not far from Burlington.

Babbott said the group was enjoying its visit to North Dakota and western Minnesota. Their stay included a stop at Pelican Lake on Friday.

"Everybody laughs -- it's so flat. But that's the way the Lord made it," Babbott said.

Duane Rogne, a Bonanzaville board member, said Harvest Days harkens back to small-town harvest festivals of days gone by. "We wanted an event like fairs used to be, with produce judging, farm products and such," he said.

Bonanzaville director Steve Stark said more than 100 people volunteered their time for the event. "We wanted a special event to wrap up the harvest season -- to get back to the days where harvest was celebrated in all the small towns," he said.

This year's Harvest Days includes free horse-drawn carriage rides, music, a Pride of Dakota products sale in Dawson Hall and Laurel & Hardy and Little Rascals movies showing continuously in Arthur Town Hall.

Mabel Singer of Glyndon, Minn., sold Mabel's Taste of Home jams, jellies and pancake and scone mixes in Dawson Hall. "It's a beautiful day," she said. "It's just fun to be part of the festival."

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Ruth Hahn of Chaffee, N.D., sold fresh-picked peppers, onions, cabbage, carrots, Indian corn, pumpkins, squash and potatoes from a stand next to a gazebo where the Viking Band played oompah-pah tunes.

"I think the music is going to bring the people," she said Saturday morning after setting up.

Daniel and Delores Berndt, a Fargo couple married for 51 years, said Harvest Days and all Bonanzaville's exhibits and old machinery reminded them of their days on the farm near Hankinson, N.D.

"Even the houses and the furniture bring back memories," Delores said. "I guess they call them, 'The good old days,' but I don't know if they were so good or not."

Added Daniel, 84, "if you're still breathing, they're good old days."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560

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