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by Caroline Downs

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Kenmare GooseFest at 25 . . .

Posted 10/22/13 (Tue)

Which sounds better:

Celebrate a quarter century of GooseFest?

Or, Kenmare’s GooseFest turns 25 years old?

Either way, 2013 is the year of the 25th annual GooseFest, that little hunting festival launched in Kenmare back in 1989.

I had to look that up the other day for a story--in the November 1, 1989 issue of The Kenmare News, Glen Froseth wrote, “The first annual Kenmare GooseFest has to be considered a tremendous success, as the week-long schedule of activities and hunting contests ended on Saturday evening with the GooseFest Banquet.”

Organizer Archie Kress even received an appreciation plaque from the Kenmare Association of Commerce for his vision and efforts.

The community promotion must have been extensive. “North Dakota Outdoors” television personality Tony Dean came to film and hunt during the week, while Dakota Country editor Bill Mitzel hunted and photographed wildlife for an article he was writing.

The news about GooseFest spread beyond the state’s boundaries, with retired Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant coming for the hunt and bringing his friend, Minnesota state senator Bob Lassard. The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Richard Lesher of Washington, D.C., even found time during his speaking schedule at Minot to make a trip to Kenmare.

Apparently, like many GooseFest years to come, the weather was questionable as the week started out with high temperature readings near 80 degrees. Glen reported a change in conditions beginning Wednesday, however, “...and Thursday through Sunday saw near ideal hunting conditions with good bags of game birds being taken.”

In fact, one of the keys to GooseFest week that first year was the number of snow geese that timed their arrival at the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge with the local festivities--about 251,000 of the white birds estimated by an aerial count taken during the week.

What I liked best, though, was the way Glen reported Archie’s understated comment about the week, saying, “....[Kress] admitted that we made a few mistakes, but all in all, the entire week went very well.”

The week went well, indeed; well enough to launch an annual event that taps the efforts of dozens of community volunteers who work hard to offer something for all ages during the festival.

And Archie Kress did another thing right when he finished the first GooseFest and admitted there were aspects of the week to be improved.

That’s one of the things I’ve appreciated about the GooseFest Committee since arriving here in 2000. The committee constantly seeks to improve GooseFest, making changes suggested for some activities, adding other events, and dropping items from the schedule that lose their appeal.

In the years I’ve been here, the Two-Person Fun Shoot, Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, Ladies’ Night Out Shopping Spree, Top Shot Chef Showdown, and Sportsmen’s Swap and Rummage Sale have been added to the schedule, and the Chili Cook-Off was successfully redesigned to boost attendance.

The Wild Game Feed was discontinued by First District Health Unit, but the Top Shot Chef Showdown will be a terrific substitute, especially with the prize money involved (and there’s still time to register for the new contest).

The other aspect of GooseFest I admire is its resiliency. Despite years with few or no celebrity guests, unseasonably warm weather, and low numbers of migrating ducks and geese, folks have enjoyed themselves in Kenmare.

The week requires a great deal of planning and organization, and I know some of the committee members ask themselves every year if they can do it again.

The answer is, always, yes. GooseFest isn’t really about shooting awards, raffle prizes or the number of geese added to someone’s freezer.

GooseFest is about celebrating Kenmare’s hospitality, where the culture of hunting reflects the nature of a friendly and inclusive community.

So get out for GooseFest this year, whether you know how to load a shotgun or not, and enjoy everything Kenmare has to offer!