Iowa’s Oldest Continuous Labor Day Celebration
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That philosophy fits the premise behind Iowa’s Oldest Continuous Labor Day Celebration in Graettinger, because the celebration has basically remained the same for all 115 previous years.
When Graettinger kicks off the 116th Annual Labor Day Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 1, the three-day event traces its heritage back to a simple picnic that didn’t really celebrate the Labor Day holiday. The original celebration was a picnic to bring local residents together to celebrate the quality of life in Graettinger and the area.
That first observance was held on the first Monday in September, 1896, on a farm owned by Mr. A.A. Wells, about a mile northeast of Osgood. The first picnic was sponsored by the Farmers’ Institute, and featured a display of fruit, garden produce, crops and crafts from local residents, a practice that continues today as the Graettinger-Terril FFA Grain and Flower show.
The first picnic featured speakers, and musical selections from the Graettinger Brass Band and several singers. Today, a talent show provides the musical entertainment, along with dances for all ages.
There were also foot races and baseball as well. Today, softball, golf, volleyball and bean bag tournaments are played during the three-day weekend.
The celebration moved into Graettinger proper in the early 1900’s and became known as the Labor Day observance. Exhibitions of boxing began in 1929 and continued for many years. Carnival rides became part of the celebration, and in 1940, airplane rides were the hit of the celebration, with the flights lasting until midnight that year.
The Labor Day celebration continued during World War II with a patriotic theme and after the war, more and more events joined the festivities. In 1952 the Methodist Church Ladies started their Labor Day Dinner in the church basement, which is now the annual turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Labor Day Monday.
Carnival rides and games still provide fun and entertainment for the young and old alike, along with traditional favorites like Bingo and the Kids Races and games.
Tractor pulls have been added to the event, along with a demolition derby, a trap shooting competition, a Fun Run and mud bogs and ATV pulls fill the schedule.
A talent show, complete with crowing of Miss Graettinger and the introduction of the Grand Marshall all combine with the Labor Day Parade to signal an end to the summer, and a celebration of the good life in rural Iowa and Palo Alto County.
Friday, Aug. 31
The fun starts Friday with the Five City All Star Band at the American Legion. Big Nacho Karaoke is at Side Street.
Saturday, Sept. 1
Kick Ball Tournament at Evergreen Park begins at 8 a.m. and the two-day Men’s Golf Tournament begins at Hillcrest Golf &?Country Club.
Citywide Garage Sales begin at 8:30 a.m. and there is a Bake Sale and Coffee at Bethel Lutheran Church at 9 a.m.
The FFA Grain &?Flower Show and FFA Barnyard open at 9 a.m. and runs the entire weekend.
The two-day Softball Tournament begins at 9 a.m. at Citizens Memorial Park.
The BINGO stand opens at 12 noon and runs throughout the weekend. Join the crowd at the Medical Clinic building.
The carnival opens at 1 p.m. and runs all weekend. The Bags Tournament is also at 1 p.m. at Citizens Memorial.
The Demolition Derby starts revving engines at 4 p.m. next to North Valley Apartments.
A Street Dance, with music by Sideline Band, rounds out the day. Dance from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Main Street, sponsored by the Labor Day Committee.
Sunday, Sept. 2
Graettinger Firemen’s Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the fire hall. The Bar-B-Que Cookoff starts at Side Street.
The Antique Tractor Pull is at 10 a.m. near the elevator and Volleyball Tournament starts at 11 a.m. at Citizens Memorial Park.
A Craft Show is at the Senior Center for two days, opening at 11 a.m.
FFA Fun Day starts at 11 a.m. at Fahnestock Park. Hot Rod Lawn Mower &?ATV Pull is at 3:30 p.m.
Highlight of the day is the Variety Show and Queen Contest at the G-T School at 7 p.m. Grand Marshall Charley Naig will be introduced.
The day concludes with a Teen Dance at the American Legion.
Monday, Sept. 3
Start Labor Day with the 5K?Fun Run/Walk at 8 a.m. Start the run at Bethel Lutheran Church. Sporting Clays also begins at 8 a.m.
Legion Races at Fahnestock Park start at 9 a.m.
The Blue Mound Turkey Dinner will be served at the Methodist Church from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Labor Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. The parade committee promises more than 150 units in the parade.
A Pork Chop Supper will be served from 3 to 6 p.m. at the American Legion.
End the day with Fun &?Games at Fahnestock Park. Grand Prize Drawings will be held at 7 p.m.
Several events are held all three days of the celebration and some have a two-day run.
For a complete schedule, see the Special Section on Graettinger Labor Day in today’s issue of The Democrat.