Horses, and more, at Lake Benton ‘Holiday’

LAKE BENTON – Despite a short time when the rain fell Saturday morning, the weather turned out to be ideal for the people participating in the many Saddle Horse Holiday activities this weekend in Lake Benton.

Marking the 67th annual Minnesota-Dakota Saddle Horse Holiday, there was something to do for all ages, whether it was horseback riding, softball, bean bag, visiting with friends, watching the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats football game or looking for a good deal at the flea market Saturday.

“We try to come to Saddle Horse Days every year,” said Terry Berger. “My parents, Larry and Marlis Berger, live here. If there was a job here for me, I’d move back. But it’s still nice to come back and see family.”

Berger’s 7-year-old daughter Jenna has a bone disorder, making health insurance a critical factor in their lives.

“She’s seven years old, but she’s only as tall as most of the 4-year-old,” he said.

But that didn’t stop Jenna Berger from trying out the straw maze or interacting with all the critters at Jessica’s Little Rascals petting zoo, including Famous Dave (pot bellied pig), Oliver (miniature donkey), Froggy (pony), Pitt Squeak (miniature cow), call ducks, two Old English sheep, a rabbit and Thelma and Louise (pygmy goats).

A steady flow of children also had their faces painted by Cindy and Brooklyn Nielsen or made their way over to the straw maze, which included bales donated from Glenn Krog and was run by Lake Benton librarian Lisa Schardin.

“The kids just love it,” Schardin said. “They keep coming back year after year.”

Schardin made sure the kids were following the maze rules and also that they received a free children’s book when they completed the course.

“The Chamber asked us to do the maze,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Lake Benton residents Chuck and Monica DeBates were excited to accompany their son Mike, daughter-in-law Val and grandchildren Amanda, Joe, KayLinn, James and Emme, who all live in Sioux City, Iowa, at the downtown activities.

“It’s the first time they’ve been able to get home for Saddle Horse Days in nine years,” Chuck DeBates said. “It’s nice to have them home. The grandchildren are an absolute enjoyment. They sure bring us a lot of joy.”

After the kids were finished at the face-painting station, the maze and the petting zoo, the entire crew then visited the Heritage Center, where Lake Benton memorabilia and history were on display. There were also sun-catchers, pottery and T-shirts to purchase, which were a fundraiser for the Lake Benton Chamber and the Historical Society.

“The museum is in back,” Karen Lichtsinn said to visitors. “We have World War I items here through July.”

Lichtsinn then sold a sun-catcher to a customer and remarked about the positive change in the weather conditions.

It looks like the weather might cooperate now, so that’s good,” she said.

Preschool-age girls Summer Rochel and Malyha Slegers weren’t taking any chances with the weather, though. The two girls carried colorful umbrellas with them throughout the morning.

“Last year, it rained for the parade,” Kylie Rochel said. “It started to downpour right at noon.”

A good number of people turned out to watch the firemen’s tug of war at the school park. Youngsters Zoey Greer and Blake DeVries picked a good spot to sit, which was right in front of the fire truck that was pumping the water. That was until the fire truck blared its horn, which caught the two kids off-guard. A few laughs later, a new crew of firemen took their places in the contest. Hendricks ended up defeating Tyler in that one.

Kelli Berger and Desire Routier also watched the water show. While Berger was also a participant, Routier ended up being crowned Miss Lake Benton Thursday evening.

“It was fun,” Berger said.

Eleven teams battled it out on the softball fields, including first-year Watertown, South Dakota team Glass Products and Phillies Pimps, a Lucan-based team that has been part of the Lake Benton celebration for the past four years.

“We had a rough morning,” Glass Products first baseman Tyler Robel said. “We got stomped on. Then we stomped a team and so here we are now, sitting 1-1.”

Lake Benton natives Heath Schindler and Braden Carmody were just starting the championship bean bag game against Elkton resident Tim Anderson and J.D. Delaney of Lake Benton.

“It’s fun,” Schindler said.

Justin Gaalswyk and Michael Manzey ended up taking third-place honors.

“All the money we collect is donated to Relay for Life,” Brandee Miller said. “We had some really good prizes donated for the top five bean bag teams, too.”

There were also people camping, fishing and swimming on Saturday in addition to those supporting the food stands. And throughout the day, horseback riders could be spotted here, there and everywhere, enjoying the pleasant weather while weaving through the trails with fellow horse lovers.

“Since it rained, I didn’t even need to go home and shower this morning,” one rider said jokingly.

On Sunday, Saddle Horse Holiday attendees had the opportunity to unite in cowboy and cowgirl attire at the cowboy church service at the Lake Benton Opera House, a Dakota-Minnesota trail ride, the annual parade and horse events for all ages.