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Hitterdal marks 125th birthday with festival

HITTERDAL, Minn. - The fourth weekend of June is always HitterFest in this town of 200 people. And while this year marks the town's 125th anniversary, the celebration is pretty much the same as it is every year. Golf tournament. Parade. Street dance.

Little Miss Pride Pageant
Carmen Nelson adjusts the tiara her daughter, 4-year-old EmmaLee Nelson, received during the Little Miss Pride Pageant on Saturday during Hitterfest in Hitterdal. This year is Hitterdal?s 125th anniversary. Dave Wallis / The Forum

HITTERDAL, Minn. - The fourth weekend of June is always HitterFest in this town of 200 people.

And while this year marks the town's 125th anniversary, the celebration is pretty much the same as it is every year.

Golf tournament. Parade. Street dance. Fireworks. The Little Miss Pride Pageant. The Lions Pancake Feed.

"It's something every small town should do," Hitterdal resident Russell McDougall said, "just to bring the people back, share memories."

McDougall has lived here 65 years. He worked at the post office and held the titles of mayor, city clerk and councilman. "You name it," he said.

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He saw the town change when the school consolidated with Ulen, Minn. "We lost the flow of the teachers coming here," which hurt business, he said Saturday.

And he's seen a few new businesses open recently, including a tanning salon and a bait and wood shop.

Two more buildings may soon house new ventures.

Today, he describes Hitterdal as small, friendly.

"Everybody helps everybody else out," he said. "If something happens on the other end of town, seems like we know it just as quick."

Highway 32 divides Hitterdal. McDougall, a Lions Club charter member, says the east and west sides are often pitted against each other in fundraisers.

But the town has worked together to keep going, said Mayor Gayle Holte.

The city is promoting a new development with 19 lots for sale.

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"Small communities work hard to stay alive. Hitterdal has worked hard. We'll be doing the same thing at 150, hopefully," Holte said.

Carmen Nelson recently moved back to neighboring Ulen from Dilworth, Minn. She brought her three children to the Hitterdal celebration.

"It's just good they acknowledge the small towns," she said.

Sons Christopher and Gunner looked forward to the parade. Daughter EmmaLee, 4, took part in the Eighth Annual Little Miss Pride Pageant.

The nine participants each received a striped sash, tiara and red and white carnations.

"We don't pick out one girl. They're all special," said pageant organizer Karrie Rohweller.

She's lived in Hitterdal for 13 years. She says the pageant gives the girls a role in the annual festival.

Hitterfest "means a lot to the community, because everyone can come together and be part of the celebration," Rohweller said.

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Ron Hitterdal said it's a good opportunity to see old friends. He's lived in the town for all his 74 years, except his time in the service. The town received his great-grandfather's last name because when it was settled, three names were put in a hat and his was drawn.

"It's kind of nice to get together with people who are off a ways. A lot of them come back," Hitterdal said.

Bev Nelson agrees HitterFest is a big draw every year. She sat along Front Street, waiting for the parade to start, while her family played on the nearby playground.

"People come here for this from all over the country," she said. "Lots of class reunions, get-togethers of all kinds, family reunions. ... It's home, I guess."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556

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