Most people who drive past the Athletic Park along North Vine Street near downtown Fergus Falls notice a softball and baseball field, tennis courts and playground equipment. It’s nothing much out of the ordinary, in their estimation.
But a look at history will prove them wrong. If those grounds could talk, people would be amazed.
On July 3, 1907, Vice President Charles Fairbanks spoke at the Athletic Park. This made for a special Fourth of July weekend in Otter Tail County.
Fairbanks served as vice president for President Theodore Roosevelt from 1905 to 1909. County residents, seeing Fairbanks and hearing him speak, realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The vice president’s connection to Fairbanks, Alaska, dates back to 1898 when Fairbanks was appointed to the Joint High Commission to decide the boundary dividing the Alaska Territory from Canada.
He gained the admiration of the local population by saying, “I’m opposed to the yielding of an inch of United States territory.”
In 1902 a small Alaskan village, consisting of settlements surrounding a trading post, showed its gratitude by naming their community Fairbanks.
In the fall of 1908 presidential candidate William Howard Taft spoke to a crowd at the nearby Fergus Falls railroad station, while passing through town. Later that fall Taft was elected president.
Teddy Roosevelt is revered in this area of the nation. He was a rancher near Medora, Dakota Territory, prior to becoming president. After he left the presidency he returned to North Dakota via train, passing through Wahpeton.