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Wear it and they will come: Richter has seen 48 Crazy Days in Perham

Steve Richter of Richter's Men's Wear assisted a customer on Friday morning as early morning shoppers hit the downtown streets of Perham for Crazy Days. Brian Hansel/FOCUS1 / 6
Karlie Matejcek, left, and Geralyn Matejcek of Wahpeton checked out a Crazy Days bargain at Winkels Carpet. Brian Hansel/FOCUS2 / 6
Four-year-old Page Voigt of Perham took a ride in a bouncy house set up for the younger set by Perham retailers. Brian Hansel/FOCUS 3 / 6
Crazy Day shoppers lined the sidewalks of downtown Perham during Friday's Crazy Days event. Brian Hansel/FOCUS4 / 6
Songwriter Todd Sisson of Calloway belted out a song for Crazy Days shoppers from a corner on Main Street. Brian Hansel/FOCUS5 / 6
Seven-year-old Dominick Bretz helped advertise his grandpa and grandma's closing sale Friday afternoon. Brian Hansel/FOCUS6 / 6

Steve Richter sported a straw hat with a brim you could park a truck under Friday morning as he cruised around his many racks of merchandise on West Main Street.

The owner of Richter’s Men’s Wear Big and Tall came up with his hat on a trip to the Bahamas in 1991. He bought the eye-catcher in an airport that was practically deserted because the Gulf War had just begun.

Richter and his hat were both enjoying a better day Friday as the 48th Perham Crazy Days event kicked off.

Richter, who will soon be turning 62, can remember the very first official Crazy Days event in 1970.

“For the first few I was obviously still in high school,” Richter smiled.

Richter and his staff began wheeling out their many racks of shirts, shorts and other clothing around 7 a.m. Friday morning. After participating in so many Crazy Days events the process took around 45 minutes. Other retailers on Main Street were still setting up as customers perused Richter’s clothing racks.

“The idea is to get them to town,” Richter said as he stood on the sidewalk and kept an eye out for customers needing his help. “We try to do a few festive things.”

Music, food, bouncy houses are all brought in to create a festive mood. Yet it is a tightrope for the Perham retailers who stage the event mainly to do some extra business.

“We don’t want to compete with ourselves,” Richter said.

It is also a two-way street for Perham retailers from the standpoint of participation. Richter believes you have to build it if you want customers to come.

“The more retailers we get out the better it is,” Richter said. “We really, really encourage people to do their thing. People like that.”

Richter also believes it is a big plus for Perham’s Crazy Days that the retail section of the town is maintained so well.

“We’ve got a pretty good group of independent retailers here that keep their businesses looking good on the outside as well as the inside,” Richter said.

Behind the festivities of Crazy Days is a marketing strategy that has worked out well for Perham. One of the gambles Perham retailers took 25 years ago was going head-to-head with WeFest.

With the country music festival attracting huge crowds to the Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes during the first full weekend of August, Perham’s retailers asked themselves if competing with the popular event 23 miles away was the right thing to do.

It has all played out very well for Perham Crazy Days. WeFest’s biggest music attractions usually do not take the stage until the evening. Crazy Days events start in the morning.

“We had some second thoughts but once we did it, it was so successful we never bothered revisiting it,” Richter said. “It doubled sales.”

Perham’s 2018 Crazy Days are scheduled for both Friday and Saturday.