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It's Osakis Festival time!

This photo of the first Miss Osakis Festival appeared on the front page of the June 12, 1969 Osakis Review. It marked the beginning of the annual community festival. 1 / 2
Antiques Osakis is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Osakis Festival with a window display of Osakis memorabilia over the years. (Contributed)2 / 2

How did the Osakis Festival get started?

An Osakis Review article from 1993 traces the roots.

Fifty years ago, a new couple who moved to Osakis, Lil and Loren Ortendahl, heard from many residents who wondered why the town didn't have an annual celebration like it did for the city's centennial anniversary back in 1957.

The centennial event included several old-fashioned activities, including a big parade.

Lil was determined to start a yearly event but there was a problem: The Chamber of Commerce would typically sponsor such a celebration but back in 1968, women weren't allowed as members so she did the research and groundwork on her own.

After coming up with a plan, she approached the chamber and asked for a sponsorship.

At first, the chamber wanted a guarantee that the event would make money. Lil said it was impossible to guarantee that anything would make money. She just wanted support.

Wives of the Chamber members joined the effort and in its first year, 1969, the festival made $1,300, thanks mainly to donations.

In its first year, the festival was called the Miss Osakis Festival and the centerpiece event was the Miss Osakis Contest. Thirteen girls competed for the title. Annella Johnson was crowned queen and the runners-up were Rachel Sorenson and Mary Roy. For a list of the festival royalty through the years until the pageant was discontinued in 1999, see the chart on page A7.

The Miss Osakis Contest prompted the need for a float for the contestants and a parade.

"We got a farm trailer and put chicken wire on it," Lil told the Osakis Review in the 1993 story. "We made homemade Kleenex flowers. We got Kleenex from our store (Jack-N-Jill), The Little Store and stores in Alexandria. We bought them out."

Lil added the purpose of the festival was two-fold — publicity for the city and pulling people together to work for a common cause.

The festival grew from a two-day event to 10-day celebration at its peak. This year's festival includes two days of fun.

Festival starts Saturday

There's something for everyone at the 2018 Osakis Festival — food vendors and crafts, pontoon rides, kids' activities, salad luncheon, bean bag tournament, pedal pulls, tug-of-war, street dance, grand parade, water fights, pie and ice cream social and more.

For a list of Osakis Festival activities, click this --

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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