Pioneer Fest plans to stay in Perham

Pine to Prairie Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Association jumped the gun and talked to the city of Vergas on his own, according to Jeff Janke, Pine to Prairie founder.

By 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, Pat Hodnefield guessed that he had finished making about 20 candles so far that day at the Pioneer Festival. (RosaLin Alcoser/Focus)

Pine to Prairie Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Association currently has no plans to move its annual Pioneer Fest from Perham to Vergas, according to Pine to Prairie founder Jeff Janke.

According to a story in the Frazee-Vergas Forum on Sept. 15, a request came to the city to allow the event to be moved from Perham to Vegas on city property along West Lake Street for Pioneer Fest.

Janke said the request made in Vergas came from a Pine to Prairie member who jumped the gun and talked to the city of Vergas on his own.

“We want to keep it in Perham,” Janke said. He said that the event did well in Perham with over 1,000 people in attendance at the 50th Pioneer Fest that took place from Aug. 15 and 16 at Perham's Pioneer Village.

The Pioneer Village has the advantage of having buildings and the Pine to Prairie board wants to keep the event in Perham, Janke said. The topic of moving the event to Vergas has not been discussed by the board but has only been suggested as an alternative if the conflict between Pine to Prairie and the History and Cultural Association of East Otter Tail County cannot be resolved.


The History and Cultural Association, also known as HACA, holds one of two leases for the Pioneer Grounds in Arvig Park, with the other lease held by the Black Powder Group. The History and Cultural Association had run Pioneer Fest until yielding control to the Pine to Prairie Group in recent years. Perham City Manager Jonathan Smith is now mediating talks between the two associations.

“There have been a few communications and responsibility conflicts as it relates to the event, the artifacts, and the use of the grounds,” Smith said.

“We are currently looking at dividing the HACA lease into two parts and Pine to Prairie would then lease a part of the Pioneer (Village) grounds,” Smith said. “This should help resolve any of the issues we were having.”

Pine to Prairie having its own lease at the Pioneer Village grounds would help prevent any more toes being stepped on, Janke said.

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