A weekend of celebrating brought together thousands of locals, former residents and guests for a once-in-a-lifetime hometown 150th birthday party in Flandreau.
Events that started July 3 and continued through July 7 were fueled by nearly 1,000 alumni and guests that attended an all-school reunion. In addition, individual classes held get-togethers and thousands attended activities planned for the Sesquicentennial, including a 100-entry parade, a community festival at the Moody County Museum and dances.
“I got to see people I hadn’t seen since 1983, and it was awesome,” said Jill Johns Toering of Hardwick, Minn. She gathered with her class of 1983 and spent time with her mother, Helen Johns, class of 1956.
They joined several people who praised the weekend’s events, which they said were well-organized and fun.
“I am very, very impressed with your town, having lived out of state for so long,” said Pierre Trevithick of Longmont, Colo. “It was good to come home, so to speak. I’m impressed with everything you folks have done.”
What a Parade
A sesquicentennial and all-school reunion parade July 5 highlighted the weekend. An hour-long break in heavy showers allowed the 10 a.m. parade to go on as planned with only a slight delay. It started with a flyover by the Vanguard Squadron and Lead Pilot David Myers, a 1983 FHS graduate. The four planes from Tea flew over the parade route twice in a diamond formation, blowing smoke out the rear of the planes.
The parade included alumni, business and community floats plus the Alumni Band and the All-City Band. Sen. John Thune, R-SD, walked the parade route, shaking hands with those in the crowd.
The Filipino community float that included a hut and several people in formal dress was the judges’ choice winner, while a shanty that included a bar and outhouse on a float ridden by Moody County employees was judged the most humorous.
Other parade entry winners included: the class of 1974 for the most humorous all-school reunion float, Tiger McGlone for the Flier spirit, the 150th committee’s birthday cake float for the best 150th theme, the class of 1970’s VW van for the best vintage vehicle, Larry Jorgensen for the best vintage tractor, and the Alumni Band for the crowd favorite.
“I am very pleased with how the entire event turned out, even with unexpected obstacles to overcome,” said Dan Sutton, chairman of the Sesquicentennial Committee. “With over two years of planning, the hard work of committee members and volunteers, financial support of businesses and individuals, and a community working together helped to make Sesquicentennial celebration one to proudly remember.”
The event kicked off June 29 with a Tonic Sol Fa concert at the FHS gym, after it was moved from the band shell because of extreme heat.
Quilts were raffled to support the celebration. Winners were Carin Zellmer, who won a quilt made by Karen Gunvaldson; Jan Bohling, who won a purple and gold quilt made by Nancy Buck, and Gloria Bauske who won back a table runner that she made.
What a Festival
The Fourth of July Festival at the Moody County Museum drew about 1,500 people, including many alumni and families, who ate at food booths, enjoyed children’s activities and listened to live music, including a performance by Jej Vinson of the season’s television show, The Voice. Vinson originally attended high school in Flandreau when he first came to the United States from the Philippines.
In addition to the National Anthem, he sang three other songs and gave a concert in the evening at the Royal River Casino.
The festival was a good place for families and alumni to meet up with each other and enjoy the day. Lani Ramsdell won the raffle for the quilt showing historic Flandreau buildings, sewn by Mary Ehrichs of Egan.
Leona “Charlie” Perry of Flandreau helped her church set up their Indian taco booth and settled in to listen to music provided by Advent Capelle singers and Vinson. “Of course, I wanted to hear the entertainment,” she said.
Jon Marble, class of 1953, joined with family members in the park to enjoy the festivities, too. He came from Minneapolis, but his family lived in Flandreau in the 1930s through the 1950s when his father, Judge William Marble, died in 1956, he said.
It’s been years since Marble, 83, visited Flandreau, and he noticed the trees have changed, the school buildings are different and his family’s house at 205 W. First Ave. has changed. “The schools, all the ones that I remember, are gone.”
One of Marble’s fondest memories was visiting the creamery. “As a kid, I would come up and put my nose on the screen door and watch them make ice cream,” he said. If he waited long enough, he often was rewarded with a tiny cone of the fresh dessert.
His sister, Alice Marble who lives in Oslo, Norway, made the trip back too. She moved after her eighth-grade year with her mother after her father died, but she wanted to see old classmates. “I wanted to see the class of 1964,” she said. “I like to come back and stay in touch with my roots.”
Marlyce Willard Ross, class of 1955, came back for the all-school reunion from Redwood Falls, Minn., where she and her husband, Jim Ross who graduated from Pipestone, live. She attends her class reunion every five years or so but this year fewer of her best friends were home.
“I had good friends in school,” she said. “We only come back for reunions because most of my family has moved away from here.”
What an all-school reunion
Alumni gathered under a large tent next to the school for a picnic meal of burgers and brats on July 5 for the “Always a Flier” reunion. The group included 964 alumni and their guests.
The largest attendance from a decade was the 1970s with 212 people, and the class of 1970 had the most members at 36, said Superintendent Rick Weber, who spoke at the event. The class of 1972 was second with 32 members.
Linda Reinhart, class of 1970, traveled the farthest, coming 8,310 miles from Bangkok, Thailand.
The family with the most alumni were the Johnsons with 157, followed by the Duncans with 63 and the Scofields with 51. The earliest known alumni that is still living is LoeElla Gulbranson Nace, class of 1931.
During the program, Merle “Nick” Kneebone, class of 1941 and the oldest alumni attending the picnic, was awarded an honorary diploma because his high school years were cut short when he enlisted with the 147th Field Artillery during World War II.
“Even though he received his GED a long time ago, there is something missing from his memories of Flandreau High School,” Weber said. “It is my great pleasure – with the power vested in me by the Flandreau Public School’s Board of Education – I would like to present an honorary diploma from Flandreau Public Schools to Merle “Nick” Kneebone.”
Weber told the crowd that they should be proud to have graduated from a quality school system.
“We can all thank our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers for their drive and foresight to get us where we are today,” Weber said. “You have been part of this continued legacy, and we thank you for continued support as you stay involved in the history of Flandreau.”
What a car show
Saturday’s events included a children’s petting zoo at the city park, a chance to meet Batman and more than a dozen inflatables set up near the Royal River Casino. Downtown at the courthouse, food vendors served meals and people enjoyed about 25 vehicles that were part of a car show.
Jim Kreber, class of 1966, drove his new 2019 Ford GT 40 from Aberdeen for the weekend and put it in the car show. The liquid gray car with orange stripes was the first one of two delivered in South Dakota through a 22-page application process. “I waited three years for it,” he said.
His is about the 480th car Ford built, and with doors that open like wings and an engine viewable through a window behind the seat, the car drew the crowd’s attention.
“This is the first car show we’ve taken it to,” said Kreber, who has had the car for five weeks. “It’s made to be driven.”
Roger Hurley of Flandreau looked at all the cars in the show, one of the many activities he enjoyed during the celebration.
“We’ve been to everything. It was good,” he said.