45th annual Agate Days this weekend
Back in 1969, a truck load of dirt seeded with agates was dumped on Elm Avenue downtown, and a Gem and Mineral Show was set up in a tent between the bank and Lake Theater.
That was 45 years ago.
The load of dirt has now grown to two loads that are spread for two blocks downtown, and those are now seeded with 400 pounds of agates and $500 in quarters. The Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede and Agate Days is the only event of its kind.
Moose Lake is known as the Agate Capital of the World, due to the fact that the world's largest agate, weighing 108 pounds, resides at the First National Bank. It can be seen in the window next to the door.
Since those early days of the Gem and Mineral Show being threatened by strong storms, the show is now secure in the gym at the Moose Lake school. Vendors are set up at the school with a wide array of gemstones from all over the world.
The fun begins on Saturday, July 19, with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at the city park from 7:30 to 11 a.m.
The gem show opens at 9 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. Other vendors are set up in the elementary parking lot.
New this year is a children's agate picking area near the school.
Get ready for the stampede by attending an Agate and Rock Identification presentation at 1 p.m. at the civic and community center, located on Elm Avenue downtown.
The stampede begins at 2 p.m. Crowds line up on both sides of the street to wait until the loads of dirt are dumped and until a canon is heard. Then the tape holding back the crowds is dropped and people dive into the pile to dig for treasures.
Agate picking kits will be available for purchase before the show. Pails of water will be placed along the sidewalks for washing the rocks that are found to reveal their beautiful designs.
Also on Saturday, visit the city park, located south of the school, for Art in the Park. Local craftspeople and artisans display their creative products.
Food is available at the park and at the school, as well as at local restaurants.
A Blue Grass Jam will be held at the park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Firefighters fire up their grills at 4 p.m. for the steak fry at the Emergency Response Center on Highway 73. The number of steaks are limited, be sure to get there early enough to get a steak.
The Geological Interpretive Center, located at the Moose Lake State Park just past the south interchange of Interstate 35, will have a free open house on both Saturday and Sunday. Displays of agates tell more of the story about agates.
Free park and ride transportation will be provided by Moose Lake Motors both days.
Agate picking is allowed in certain gravel pits, but a permit is needed. Obtain permits at the Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce office at Highway 61 and Arrowhead Lane.
The fun continues on Sunday, July 20, with the Gem and Mineral Show from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
An Antique Car Show will be held in the city park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After the show, the cars will parade along Lakeshore Drive to Augustana Health Care Center.
"Agate Days started in a tent," commented Mayor Ted Shaw recently. "Now the Agate Days Committee meets year round because the event has gotten so large.
"Agate Days pulls in thousands to the area for the two-day period. There is Art in the Park and the car show, along with the Gem and Mineral Show at the school.
"Agate Days is a big plus for the city and the surrounding area. It has a positive effect on the local economy. People who come for Agate Days get to know Moose Lake a bit, and they might come back here for vacations.
"It's a big event for Moose Lake, and we welcome everyone to our beautiful city."