Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Agate Days is coming

 

Paul Staab Productions

The 50th Annual Agate Days will be celebrated in Moose Lake on Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, with Art in the Park, a Gem and Mineral Show, free admission to the Moose Lake State Park and Geological Interpretive Center, and the Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede.

In a recent interview with Walt Lower II, one of the first organizers, he explained that he took the idea of the stampede from an event in Wickenburg, Arizona.

"It was a gold mining town," he said. "They would hide nuggets of gold in a pile of dirt, and then people would dive into it to find the gold."

He said that he was always coming up with ideas to promote the town and, in discussions with Floyd Clark, an agate collector, they came up with the idea of Agate Days.

Moose Lake was and still is the home of the world's largest agate, weighing 108 pounds. It is on display in the window of the First National Bank on Fourth Street and Elm Avenue.

Floyd was a member of the Carlton County Gem and Mineral Club and talked to those members about sponsoring a gem and mineral show. The club members agreed, and a tent was set up in the parking lot across the street from the power plant for the first gem and mineral show.

There was a storm that first year, and the tent did not fare too well. The gem and mineral show was moved to the school gym and remained there until 2017.

After the new school had been built and the old school sold, the gem and mineral show moved to Riverside Arena in 2018, and will remain there this year and possibly on into future years.

Another very active member of the gem and mineral club was Tom Olsen of Carlton.

The Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede on Saturday has been named for those two active promoters of Agate Days. The time of the agate stampede had been held at 2 p.m. for most of the 50 years of Agate Days but was changed to 3 p.m. last year.

There is an agate and rock identification presentation from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Moose Lake Community Center on Elm Avenue before the stampede.

In the hour before the stampede, hundreds of people, young and old, line the sidewalks on both sides of street to wait for the signal to dive in. Over the years, the crowds grew to be so large that the stampede was lengthened from one block on Elm Avenue to two.

Rocks are dumped by two big trucks just before the stampede on Elm from Fourth Street to Second Street. Four hundred dollars of agates, $400 in quarters, and $100 in half dollars, funded by local businesses, are seeded into the loads of rocks.

A big boom can be heard and that is the signal to dive in and start grabbing agates and coins and throwing them into pails or bags.

All of those people bent over and digging through the rocks has been described as "the funniest thing you ever saw." Spectators watch from the sidewalks to see this phenomenon that is unique to Moose Lake. There is no other such event known anywhere else.

It is all over in a half hour, and the people start to leave. City crews clean up the rocks after everyone has left, while successful agate and coin hunters show their finds to friends and family members. Buckets of water, filled by the fire department, line the sidewalks so people can wash off their agates or rocks that they have collected to bring out the details and beauty of the stone.

A shaded agate hunting area is set up outside of the arena for the little rock hounds. Wading pools are filled with dirt, and agates are mixed in for the little children to find.

The gem and mineral show features exhibitors from all over the nation, who bring gems and fossils from all over the world. Many of the rocks and items, such as jewelry, are for sale, while others are just for display.

Visitors can ride a shuttle bus, provided by Arrowhead Transit, for free between the arena, the park, and downtown to the stampede.

The Geological Interpretive Center is located at the Moose Lake State Park, located just beyond the Highway 73 interchange with I-35. The state park has free admission on Saturday and Sunday during Agate Days. Visitors can view the many types of agates from all over the world.

The agates in the Moose Lake area are Lake Superior Agates and were brought to the area by glaciers that once covered the region.

Visitors can also pick up agate-hunting permits at the Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce table at the arena, along with a map that shows where the gravel pits are located where whole agates can be found, if one is diligent.

There are many accompanying activities during Agate Days.

The Alaska Mission Pancake Feed is held at the Moose Lake Evangelical Covenant church on Folz Boulevard, Highway 27-73, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

The Five Sisters 5K Run/Walk begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The run/walk is to raise funds for the Traveling Angels, a disaster recovery mission group.

Art in the Park is held on Saturday in the city park on Third Street and Birch Avenue all day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Listen to the Blue Grass Jam on at the band shell in the park on Saturday from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m.

And then be sure to go to the Emergency Response Center on Highway 73 for the Firefighter's Steak Fry. The firefighters will be serving steaks cooked to order, along with all the trimmings, from 4 to 7 p.m.

The gem and mineral show continues on Sunday but, unfortunately, the car show, which had been held in the park on Agate Days Sunday for many years, will not be held this year.

For more information, call the Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at 218-485-4145 or 800-635-3680.

 

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