Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My Minnesota hometown celebrates summer with its famous chicken, dancing in the street & more June 14, 2012

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I’LL NEVER FORGET the summer the neighbor boy coaxed me into riding with him on the Octopus during V-Esta Daze, my hometown’s annual summer celebration. What was I thinking as I settled into the amusement ride with Keith? What was he thinking?

I screamed the entire dizzying ride, scared out of my teenaged wits.

The same chicken dinner sign goes up every year inside the Vesta Community Hall. The price is updated when necessary.

While a carnival is no longer a part of V-Esta Daze, one aspect of the Vesta Commercial Club-sponsored celebration has remained constant. Since 1963, the Club has served its “famous barbecued chicken.”

It’s considered “famous,” I suppose, because V-Esta Daze became known for its chicken, just like Sauerkraut Days in Henderson is noted for its sauerkraut and Barnesville Potato Days is known for its potatoes.

The chicken dinner I enjoyed last summer at V-Esta Daze.

It is such comfortable familiarity, the same year-after-year offering of savory chicken grilled by the same volunteer men over a long pit of coals next to the old brick Vesta Community Hall that keeps locals and natives and those from neighboring towns returning.

This Friday, June 15, the crowds will be back, lining up at the hall between 5 – 8 p.m. for that famous chicken dinner.

The Lucan Community Band played under the shade trees outside the community hall and across the street from the elevator at last year’s celebration.

Outside the hall, members of the Lucan Community Band will settle onto battered folding chairs to entertain the crowd with old favorites while folks listen and visit, catching up on the latest.

Area residents brought their vintage tractors to town for a tractor and car show last year. This year the show has been expanded to include “anything with wheels.”

Over on Main Street, tractors and cars and more will line up for the “Anything with Wheels” show between 4:30 – 8 p.m.

My cousin Dawn’s son, Kegan, enjoyed a pony ride at the 2011 celebration.

The Vesta Vikings 4-H Club is sponsoring a petting zoo and will be selling root beer floats.

Kids picked up hoses in water fights at last year’s V-Esta Daze.

Kids will engage in water fights near the hall from 6 – 8 p.m. I remember, when I was growing up, how fire departments from neighboring communities competed against one another to push a barrel along a cable with water shooting from a fire hose. I can still hear the pounding of water against metal, feel the excitement as the barrel flipped and turned and rode the cable until one team slammed the barrel into a post.

The only contests this year are the bean bag tourney beginning at 6 p.m. and the pie eating contest at 10 p.m.

In between and after, from early evening until 1 a.m., two musical groups will entertain at the street dance. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like dancing on the pavement of your one-block-Main-Street hometown while drinking beer on a sweltering summer night.

At least that’s what I remember, from years ago.

The Vesta Community Hall, center of the V-Esta Daze celebration. To the left is the covered BBQ pit.

Along Minnesota Highway 19, this sign marks my hometown, population around 330 and home of the nation’s first electric co-op.

FYI: Vesta is located in southwestern Minnesota, half way between Redwood Falls and Marshall on State Highway 19.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling