History, tradition collide for Buffalo Days

LUVERNE -- Rock County is recognizing its 150th birthday this year, so in the grand scheme of things, its 33 years of Buffalo Days celebrations seems rather brief.

LUVERNE - Rock County is recognizing its 150th birthday this year, so in the grand scheme of things, its 33 years of Buffalo Days celebrations seems rather brief.

Yet as the annual kick-off to the region’s summertime celebrations, Buffalo Days is steeped in tradition, from its Arts in the Park festival and Buffalo Days parade, to the always popular spectacle of the buffalo chip throwing contest.

New this year, Take 16 Brewing Company is hosting a block party from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, featuring live music, food and, of course, beer.

An alternate option that evening includes racing at the Rock County Fairgrounds. It isn’t a completely new event, but it will be a bit different from past years, according to Luverne Area Chamber Director Jane Lanphere. The gates open at 5 p.m., with hot laps at 6 and racing action to begin at 7 p.m.

Events are planned throughout the three-day festival, with one event - the Luverne Baseball Tournament - offering games for spectators all three days. Lanphere said 50 teams are coming to town for the tourney. Teams comprised of third- through eighth-graders will play at Joe Roberts Field and the school ball diamonds, with the VFW tournament at Redbird Field.


“It just looks like we’re going to have a wonderful event,” Lanphere said, adding that she’s keeping an eye on the weather forecast in hopes of sunny skies.

The Arts in the Park is traditionally a large draw, with 75 vendors signed up for Saturday’s festival in the city park on Luverne’s east side.

“We have some new vendors and vendors with new products,” Lanphere said.

The park includes a variety of food vendors also, along with other activities, such as Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, free inflatables for the kids and the buffalo chip throwing contest.

On Sunday, activities once again include Tales from the Graves, a program started six years ago to reveal some of the stories behind Luverne’s historical figures, from the well-known to the unknown.

“I think it’s a real educational piece for the community,” Lanphere said, noting that seven individuals will be featured during Sunday’s event, planned from 1 to 4 p.m. at Maplewood Cemetery. “With us being 150 years old, we’re trying to highlight some of the interesting stories about our community.”

Among the featured tales are the life of Henry Bierkamp, a wealthy man who purchased a new buggy every year from the Leicher Brothers, owners of a buggy company in Luverne. Bierkamp was the first local man to purchase an automobile, and after it arrived via train from Terre Haute, Ind., no one knew how to drive it.

“It didn’t come with directions,” Lanphere said, adding that the car was taken apart and reassembled so they could learn how to start it.


Another story features Augustus Carver, a local minister who started a boys band that played at special events. When the Armistice was signed, it’s said the band performed all through the night, walking up and down the streets of Luverne in celebration.

One tale shares the life and times of Jessie Roberts, who was married to the Rock County Sheriff and was the chief cook for the inmates locked up in the local jail.

“She was known for her good cooking,” Lanphere noted. “There’s story after story about guys that would get in trouble so they could go and have some good food, especially during tough times.”

Others featured this year are a former publisher of the Rock County Herald, Mrs. J.R. Burlingame, and a repeat tale of the Hanson family, in which a mother killed her five children.

With Luverne High School’s graduation Sunday afternoon, Lanphere recruited several new volunteers to reenact the individuals and share the stories in Tales from the Graves #6.

Whether you are able to come for a day or stay for the weekend, Lanphere said the Buffalo Days celebration always offers a good time with good food.

A complete schedule of events follows:

Luverne Baseball Tournament


6 to 10:30 p.m.: Buffalo Days Cruise-In, Main Street, downtown. Free registration, parking for more than 250 cars, trucks, motorcycles or other vehicles. Food, beverages and beer garden available.
6:30 to 10:30 p.m.: Music by “The Starfires” downtown.

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Hot Air Balloon Rides at The Lake.
Luverne Baseball Tournament

7:30 a.m.: Dad’s Belgian Waffle Feed, American Legion

8:15 a.m.: Buffalo Days Fun Run: A tribute to Pat Smedsrud, 5K and 10K Run/Walk. Register at Sanford Luverne Rehab.
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Arts in the Park, Luverne City Park.
10 a.m.: Buffalo Days parade

Noon: Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, Luverne City Park.

12:30 p.m.: Buffalo Chip Throwing contest, Luverne City Park
2 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Take 16 Block Party, Main Street.
7 p.m.: Rock County Speedway Races, Rock County Fairgrounds

Luverne Baseball Tournament

10:30 a.m.: Ecumenical worship service, Historic Palace Theatre

1 to 4 p.m.: Tales from the Graves #6, Maplewood Cemetery, with homemade Pie and Ice Cream Social.



Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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