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'Good Old Days' celebrated with lawn mowers, mud

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ST. IGNATIUS – On Saturday afternoon during the 37th Annual Good Old Days Celebration at the park, six men lined up to compete in what could be called the American version of the Tour de France, considering the competitive nature of both races, although these men climbed onto riding lawnmowers instead of bikes.

On a circular track, dust and dirt flew as competitors topped speeds of about 30 miles per hour. Stuart Morton, one of the race organizers, said jokingly that the ledge going into Mission Creek, not far from the course, created added excitement. If the racers didn’t make the corners, they could potentially get their tires wet.

In the third round and almost the 15th lap, Matthew Westenberg was eyeing third place. For the past few years, he has worked on a riding lawnmower for the race. This was maybe the fourth time he had entered the competition. He usually takes second. During the off-season, he said, he has gotten his lawnmower to move down a dirt road at speeds close to 55 miles per hour, which only happens if the conditions are perfect. During the race, everything was in order, until suddenly it wasn’t. 

The lawnmower quit. It turns out that the engine belt just came off. Westenberg shook his head at the lawnmower and started trying to fix it. Meanwhile, Allan Green, sped to the finish line and took first place, winning bragging rights for the year, and Andrew Jensen took second. Jim Buckheart proclaimed himself the “Cheater” of the event. “I cut the corners thinking I would come in faster, but they still beat me,” he said.

Good Old Days events began on Thursday with a tennis tournament. On Friday, Sasha Traver was crowned Miss Good Old Days at the pageant. The festivities continued through the night with music and fireworks. On Friday, Annalysia DuMontier brought her raspberry cake to the Junior Baking contest, Lettie Umphrey had an apple pie, Maxwell McLeod brought Max’s Surprise, Emma Brill had a blueberry creation and Kyra Marmoa had caramel apple bites. 

On Saturday, runners lined up on Main Street during the morning hours for the annual Buffalo Run, hosted by St. Luke Community Healthcare. For the half marathon, Beatrix Frissell was the overall winner. For the seven-mile race, Landon Shipley came in first. Zoran LaFrombois was the first four-mile runner. In the one-mile fun run, Anssi DuMontier came in first.

“We had people come in as far as Butte to attend this race,” organizer Brooke Duty said. With all the races combined, 115 people participated with a new chip timing service. “We hope to continue to grow our race every year,” she said.

At noon, the parade moved slowly down Main Street with the Mission Valley Honor Guard leading the way followed by St. Ignatius Police Chief Matt Connelly. “We have one of the best honor guards in the state,” announcer Stuart Morton said from a platform raised up above the parade route. He was serving as the emcee this year in place of Les Rice who recently passed away after a battle with cancer.

A sign was displayed under the platform saying: “In loving memory of our beloved emcee Les Rice.” He had volunteered at different Good Old Days events for about 20 years. “We want to honor Les this year and say ‘thank you’ one last time,” Morton said. “He was a big part of Good Old Days.” 

One of the floats commemorated the flag raising at Iwo Jima during World War II. Local St. Ignatius Marine Private First Class Louis Charlo was part of the platoon that raised the actual flag. He was killed on the island one week after the flag was raised as he tried to save his fellow Marines in battle. 

On the float, the names of 300 WWII veterans where displayed who are buried in St. Ignatius. A few of the names included Sgt. James R W McCarthy who the local American Legion Post was named after. McCarthy was killed in action. It was said he would be the first in the northwest to receive two Silver Stars, a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and one Infantry Combat Medal along with the Presidential Citation from President Roosevelt. 

The names of six Orr brothers were also on the float. They all served in WWII and returned home. “We regretfully could not include the rest of the Mission Valley as we had 300 names just from St. Ignatius, and we were running out of space,” said Homer Courville, Mission Valley Honor Guard member and American Legion Post 106.   

Morton sponsored the float and helped build it along with Paige Carney, David Keast, Shaun Andres, Deon Cary, Andrew Jensen and the James R W McCarthy Post 106 of the American Legion. A second float celebrated 100 years of American Legion Auxilliary posts across the United States, including the local chapter. 

After the parade, hundreds of people filled the Good Old Days park and watched dog races, a tug-o-war contest, sack races and more. On Sunday, the events continued at the St. Ignatius Airport with an annual pancake breakfast fly-in where about 36 airplanes were displayed during the morning event. 

“We do this to bring the community together at the airport and introduce people to aviation,” Mike Kuefler said of the event. “That’s what the Good Old Days is about: bringing people together.”

 

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