By Edie Schmierbach
---- — GODAHL — Up to 20 people showed up early on Saturdays for the past three weekends to help Godahl get all gussied up for its 58th annual Labor Day celebration. The volunteers used white paint to freshen up the exterior of the town's general co-op store, a two-story frame built in 1894.
"It was in need of paint and we wanted to get it looking nice," said store manager Darlene Olson.
Olson was busy this week with preparations to make sure enough food will be on hand Monday when the town of about 15 residents host crowdsof up to a thousand people.
The holiday marking the end of summer vacation season and the beginning of the school year isn't celebrated with much fanfare in other Minnesota towns — but it's been a big deal for a long time in little Godahl. Each year, people flock to the unincorporated village between Sleepy Eye and St. James.
Last year, when bridge work closed part of Highway 4 the number of visitors was down, but attendance was still good, said Mike Shupe, an activities organizer. At least 400-500 people turned out for the afternoon parade. The highlight of the celebration, the procession starts at 12:30 p.m. with a route that runs along the Watonwan and Brown county line.
Olson puts up a "closed" sign during the parade, but reopens afterward for those who want to purchase refreshments or just want to take a look at the Nelson & Albin store, which is Minnesota's oldest continuously operating co-op general store.
Godahl Days entertainment starts early — old-time bands begin playing at 9:30 a.m. from an outdoor stage, where dancers may polka nearby. The Mike Lang Band from Sleepy Eye, joins the lineup this year, Shupe said.
An open stage is available for locals to show off their talents. "Mostly, it's kids," Amy Hanson has been entertainment coordinator for the past five years.
Teen-age vocalist Callie Coleman of St. James will sing Monday after she returns from her second year as a 4-H performer at the State Fair.
Baseball games and activities for kids are planned throughout the day. Food stands on the grounds will feature hot pork sandwiches, ham sandwiches and hamburgers.
Much of the celebration's proceeds are designated for Godahl's community center and local baseball and softball teams.
"The town isn't very big, but we draw in lots of kids and their parents," Shupe said.
Last year, a new benefit/entertainment was introduced. Messy Bessy, was quite popular and quite profitable, Shupe said. For the game of chance, an area (away from the parade route) is divided into a grid. People purchase raffle tickets for a change to win $1,000 and the opportunity to stand around and wait for a cow to pick a square on which she will deposit the byproducts of her most recent meal.
"It's interesting," Shupe said when he offered his assessment of the fundraiser.