By Anna Erickson

The third annual Jefferson Highway Association conference took visitors on tours of historical sites in the area over the weekend.

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The Jefferson Highway Association, named after Thomas Jefferson, was formed in 1915 to build a highway from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to New Orleans, La., in the United States. The highway was the idea of Edwin T. Meredith (of Iowa), publisher of Successful Farming and Better Homes and Gardens and later Secretary of Agriculture under President Woodrow Wilson, who thought the highway would be economically beneficial to the region’s farmers.

In November of 1915 a meeting was held with representatives from all the Louisiana Purchase states to organize an association for the purpose of constructing an international highway from Winnipeg in Canada to New Orleans, La. This convention was also held to determine the route of the new highway.

In 2011, the Jefferson Highway Association was born.

The conference convened Friday at the C’mon Inn in Park Rapids.

Several presenters spoke about topics related to the conference theme, The Jefferson Highway in the Land of Lakes and Pines.

Carol Altepeter, with Explore Minnesota Tourism, spoke about tourism in Minnesota. Charles A. Zelle, Minnesota Commissioner, spoke about the different kinds of transportation and getting from A to B.

James Fogerty, with the Minnesota Historical Society, gave an oral history. Verlyn D. Anderson, retired professor of Scandinavian studies and history at Concordia College, spoke about how Minnesota was a magnet for immigrants from Scandinavia.

Ren Holland, an author from Little Falls, and Frank Mitchell, local historian from Park Rapids, spoke about the Jefferson Highway in Minnesota.

The Northern Knights Car Club had a Back to the ’50s and ’60s event Friday evening and Kinship kids and mentors served root beer floats.

Saturday took participants to Itasca State Park to see the Headwaters of the Mississippi, the Menahga Area Historical Society Museum and Hubbard County Historical Museum.

The conference concluded with an awards ceremony at the Park Rapids American Legion and music by the Upper Mississippians, a ’20s-’30s jazz band.