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ISSUE 116 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/13/2002

Weekend festival spurs spirit of Wild West: Annual "Defeat of Jesse James Days" attracts students, t

By Sarah Ferguson
Staff Writer

Friday, September 13, 2002

Whether cowboy hats inspire smiles or squirms, Northfield residents undoubtedly saw their share of western styles last weekend. The 54th Annual Defeat of Jesse James Days Celebration proved to be popular among college students and community members alike.

Jesse James Days was founded in 1948 to honor the citizens who risked their lives fighting Jesse James at The First National Bank on Sept. 7, 1876.

Bank raid reenactments took place regularly on Saturday. For some students, they served as a lesson in old western culture. Many people are unaware that, at one time, Minnesota was part of the Wild West.

The spirit of the West certainly seemed to come alive during many Jesse James Days events.

One of the most popular events with students was the P.R.C.A. Professional Rodeo, which took place once on Friday and twice on Saturday.

Competing riders came from all over the Midwest for bull-riding, calf-roping, and other traditional rodeo challenges. St. Olaf was well represented at the Saturday night rodeo when a group of students sang "Um Ya Ya" in the stands.

Sandy Vesledahl, general chairman of Jesse James Days 2002, said that these students were greatly appreciated because they "added to the enthusiasm of the night."

Students from urban areas had particularly unique experiences at Jesse James Days. Kristen Highum ’05 attended her first rodeo on Saturday afternoon.

Coming from a suburb of Minneapolis, Highum said that she had "never really been a country gal." Still, she professed an urge to "ride one of those sheep" that children rode during the rodeo’s mutton busting challenge.

The age limit was the only thing that stood in her way, Highum said.

Despite its Western emphasis, the weekend was not restricted to lessons in western culture. For those who desired a modern carnival atmosphere, rides and food stands were provided.

The Entertainment Center hosted live bands and provided refreshing beverages by the river.

Along Highway 3, antique cars in an array of colors displayed.

Runners had the chance to participate in a 5k or 15k race, or join the featured bicycle tour.

With so much to see and do, St. Olaf students traveled downtown in large numbers.

Compared to past celebrations, college students seemed to "come out in force" even more this year, said Vesledahl.

Even Carleton students, for whom classes have not yet started, returned to Northfield for the annual celebration. Vesledahl encouraged students to maintain their high participation.

According to Vesledahl, plans for the 2003 celebration will begin next week. Volunteers will work to create yet another weekend of fun and community-building.

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