Actors in the musical “Oklahoma” sing fondly about a surrey with fringe on the top that travelled roads of yesteryear.
Now people in the Wright County will get to see a vintage 100-year-old surrey wheeling along county roads during the Best of 12 Wagon Train. Wagoners, horse people and helpers will hit the road Thursday, Sept. 27, near Delano and end up in Howard Lake Saturday, Sept. 29.
The Wagon Train has attracted not one, but two century-old surreys, according to Harlan Lewis, of Delano, who is coordinating the event. One is owned by Kathy and David Boron of Anoka and the other by Steve Decker of Waverly. They participated in last year’s Wagon Train and decided to return this year.
Decker last year talked about his surrey’s luxury features that probably prompted a banker to ride it in style.
In its third year, the Best of 12 Wagon train is a combination historical and modern day show and tell. The historical part involves opportunities for people to see the entourage on Wright County roads and at overnight and noon time stops along the Highway 12 corridor. At Wagon Train stops, visitors are invited to pet a horse or two, see rigs up close and meet the participants, who will be dressed in period costumes.
The modern day show and tell will give host cities for the Wagon Train a chance to display what their communities have to offer, as people stop to see the slice of history. Host cities will be Delano, Montrose, Howard Lake, Waverly, Dassel and Cokato.
Lewis has coordinated the Wagon Train during each of its three years. He said the original idea was to give communities a chance to showcase their unique attractions without competing with each other. The original idea has grown to the point where communities have formed the Best of 12 group to market the area. The group is planning events such as a 5K race and informing the public about places to swim. A community calendar is involved.
“Highway 12 is a forgotten part of Wright County,” he said. It runs all the way to the South Dakota border and has attractions such as a thriving winery, a fair grounds, lakes and apple orchards — “things you don’t have on I-94 or Highway 55.”
The Wagon Train has “a side benefit” of showing people that the area has a lot of horses. “We haven’t capitalized on them,” Lewis said.
So far 15 owners of rigs have spoken up for joining the Wagon Train, and this would be the largest turn out during its history, he said. Participants are coming from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Both owners of rigs and riders of horses are invited to join the group, but Lewis warned riders of horses that the wagon train will have a slow pace — three miles per hour. To get information about participating in the wagon train, contact Lewis at 952-237-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost to register is $25.
The public will be able to visit the wagon train Wednesday, June 26. Participants will arrive between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. at the Cal Brandt farm, 2561 72nd St. S.E. in Franklin Township, three miles west of the Delano Theater.
The group will hit the road for the first time on Thursday and stop between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Montrose Community Center for a noon meal. The Montrose Senior Center is inviting both wagoners and the public to munch on lunch and interact with each other. The evening stop will be in Waverly, where the public can see wagoners, rigs and horses after 4:30 p.m. The wagon train will camp out in Waverly one block south of Highway 12 on the east side of Highway 8.
Friday’s travels will take the wagon train from Waverly to Cokato, where the group will stay overnight in the parking lot of the Holt Motor Co. on the north side of Highway 12 and Seventh Street. Lewis said the group will be very visible to the public.
Saturday, the last travel day, will take the wagon train from Cokato to an 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. lunch stop across from the Dassel-Cokato High School parking lot, located on Highway 12 three miles west of Cokato. From there the group will swing towards Howard Lake and end its trip at the Wright County Fairgrounds at about 4:30 p.m.
At the fairgrounds, the wagon train will meet up with the Minnesota Donkey and Mule Association, which will be having events there all day Saturday and into Sunday. The public will be able to watch donkey and mule races and contests, witness the arrival of the wagon train and meet animals and participants.
Some wagoners and horse people will leave for home right away on Saturday night, and some will stay until Monday to give their animals a breather. “Boy are they dedicated to their animals,” Lewis said. “It’s unbelievable how they take care of them first.”