Hubbard Prairie Sleigh Fest to offer old-fashioned fun

The historical tradition of the Hubbard Prairie will be reborn once again with a horse-drawn sleigh festival Sunday, Feb. 24 in the village of Hubbard.

Jeff Youngbauer
Horse-drawn sleighs will be dashing through the snow in Hubbard Sunday, Feb. 24. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The historical tradition of the Hubbard Prairie will be reborn once again with a horse-drawn sleigh festival Sunday, Feb. 24 in the village of Hubbard.

A day of old-fashioned fun - a winter day in the country - will begin at 11 a.m., a $5 button gaining entry for all activities. Kids under 12 are free.

Organizer Jim Johnson and a cadre of volunteers have added new events and are hoping for snow - to create a whimsical village of ice sculptures once again.

A giddy-up cart race is sure to amuse, with a "horse" (a blindfolded human) and cowboy directing the merry mare through a timed course. The derby begins at noon.

A trapper encampment to be staged by the historic Indian mounds will send passersby back to the 19th Century. Joel Maxwell and other "fur traders" will engage visitors on a time travel, sharing stories about the trading post that existed between Hubbard and Wadena in the 1800s.


From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 24 horse-drawn wagons or sleighs will giddy-up through the small village of Hubbard.

"Mush!" Sled dogs will carry passengers through the snow behind the Community Center. And a collection of Hubbard memorabilia, vintage maps of lakes among them, will be on display at the Community Center.

A chili and cornbread lunch will be served at Hubbard United Methodist Church from noon to 3 p.m. with a freewill donation received.

Incredibly Real, comprised of Century middle school musicians Jack and Tim (twins) and brother Dan Walsh, Jack Bateman, Logan Veo and Derek Reichling, will entertain at the Community Center. And clues will be available for the treasure hunt, for adults and children.

Fifteen to 20 horses and rigs are expected for the grand parade which will glide down Hubbard's main boulevard at 1 p.m.

At 2 p.m. a play depicting Hubbard's history, featuring characters from Johnson's recently published book, "Heyday," will be staged at Long Lake Theater.

"Heyday," described by its author as a "hybrid combination of history, essay and experience," is selling well. The book focuses on "20 upstart years on the Hubbard Prairie, 1880-1900."

People question Johnson on what motivated him to write about the village perched on Long Lake's southern tip.


"It's a wonderful place to live," he tells them. "Someone should write about it."

He'd ascertained that if he could harness his Austrian Haflinger horses, Wally and Archie, he could harness history.

A rich story unfolds in the book, recapturing an era of "vigor and prosperity, driven by a high-spirited burst of entrepreneurial energy."

History, he'd determined, is just storytelling.

Johnson had a partner with him on his quest to discover the intricacies of the prairie, a golden retriever.

He and Watson were motoring through New York Mills during the annual festival celebrating Finnish heritage when he heard a performer singing about the steamboat on the Shell River, Lotta Lee, a subject in the book. He slammed on the brakes.

The poem, Johnson learned, was written by the performer's father, Carl Peltoniemi. Kip Peltoniemi put words to music.

Now, thanks to County 20, it's about to become a local folk song. The musicians will play their rendition of the song as a finale to the history play and a prelude to their performance at 2:30.


Five or six stations will be serving hot chocolate indoors during the day and mulled wine and cider will be served from 2 to 4 p.m. at Long Lake Theater.

The event is a rebirth of the festival that began in 1994 and lapsed when founder Chuck Flowers died, Johnson explained. Hubbard Prairie Sleigh Festival honors the farming heritage in southern Hubbard County.

"It's just for fun," Johnson said of adding some warmth to winter.

Volunteers are welcome. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. Mondays at the Hilltop, with coffee and cookies served.

Updates can be found on Facebook at Hubbard Prairie Sleigh.

Hubbard is located at the intersection of CSAH 6 and Highway 87, 8 miles south of Park Rapids.

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