Getting together

Many come out to enjoy Lake Benton’s annual Saddle Horse Holiday

Photo by Jenny Kirk The trio of Blake DeVries, left, Riley Nordmeyer and Tanner Drietz teamed up for the first-ever kids bed races that were part of the 71st annual Saddle Horse Holiday activities on Saturday in Lake Benton. The young team took third out of nine teams of three.

LAKE BENTON — It seemed like nearly all of Lake Benton’s population of 683 came out to celebrate at the 71st annual Saddle Horse Holiday on Saturday.

There were activities geared toward people of all ages — something that helps get residents involved and works to draw many back to their hometown.

“There are activities from Thursday to Sunday,” Ginny Knudson said. “The many activities and the class reunions help bring people home. My great-granddaughter (5-year-old Linnea Flemmer) has been back three times and she thinks we always have this much activity going on in town.”

Knudson said she’s seen Saddle Horse Days change over the years. She first attended the festivities with her boyfriend (now husband) Glyde Knudson, who was instrumental in starting the town celebration.

“Seventy-one years ago, he and Jean Carr started this,” she said. “I don’t really like horses that well even though I grew up in an era when my dad used horses for work.”

Despite her aversion to equines, Ginny Knudson said she continued taking part in Saddle Horse Days over the years. She rode right behind her husband, she said.

“We’ve never missed it,” Knudson said. “We’ve been through all kinds of weather, including the heat, the rain and having to duck for tornadoes.”

When it first started, Knudson said the celebration took place on Sunday only.

“There used to be 600 to 700 horses on the trail ride,” Knudson said. “That number has dwindled over the years. There’s usually about 80-90 now.”

Knudson said it wasn’t as easy to transport horses back then either.

“It was a crazy time,” she said. “Nobody had horse trailers. So they’d put their horses in the back of trucks. People came from all over. A lot of people from Brookings (South Dakota) Riding Club were involved. Lloyd Jackson also helped start Saddle Horse Days. Those were fun times.”

While the pork chop feed is less than 20 years old, Knudson said the street dances have been taking place for a long time. Some activities vary from year to year.

“I have a lot of great memories,” Knudson said. “Lake Benton is a beautiful town and a nice place to raise kids. It’s so great seeing people when they come back for Saddle Horse Days.”

Knudson’s son, Scott, hosted a class reunion celebration at his home on the lake. On Sunday, the entire family headed out there.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” Ginny Knudson said.

Knudson praised all of the volunteers who have helped with the annual festivities over the past seven decades. It takes a lot of effort and time, she said.

“The VIPs, a committee of about 12-14, work well together and bring all of this together,” Knudson said. “Someone is in charge of this and someone is in charge of that. It’s well-managed and well-organized. They do a good job with it.”

One of the highlights on Saturday was the big inflatable waterslide.

“It was fun, but it was super cold,” 5-year-old Flemmer said.

Eight-year-old Cyrus Carter felt the same way.

“My tongue got hypothermia,” he said.

Twins Summer and Silver Rochel didn’t seem to mind the coldness. Neither did Aiden Melchor, who kept smiling the whole time. Taton Koopman went down the watery slide countless times. He even took his little sister, Brinley, but she didn’t care for the big splash at the bottom.

Another highlight was the bed races. Along with the adult competition, this year marked the first that kids 8 years and up could participate.

“We’re doing kid races this year for the first time,” volunteer Alisha Kuhn said. “It’ll be fun to see the kids doing the race.”

Most of the kids could hardly contain their excitement as they signed up and got permission slips filled out from their parents or guardians. Nearly 10 kids teams took part in the fan-favorite activity. Blake DeVries, Riley Nordmeyer and Tanner Drietz were the second team of three to go and knew they had recorded a pretty good time (13.81). The group ended up getting third overall.

The kid’s bed race champions were Arthur Finzen, Noah Greer and Gabby Thooft, with the time of 12.07. Each champion received a large trophy.

Along with a 5K run/walk, flea market, art show, bean bag tournament, softball tournament, ice cream social, talent contest and Wildcats football game, there was a fireman’s street dance to close out the activities on Saturday. In addition to many horse-affiliated events, the annual parade took place on Sunday.