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About the Water Carnival

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees have been sponsoring the annual Northwest Water Carnival since they organized as a chapter in 1935. The Water Carnival is one of the longest running festivals in the state of Minnesota. It has become one of the premier summer events in the lakes area, and includes a wide range of activities for the whole family.

The first Water Carnival was held in 1935. It took several years to become established, and was even cancelled in 1937. However, it has been held every year since then. Water Carnival has been well-attended, and has grown to be as much as an 11-day affair with more than 60 events. In its current format, it will be a 10-day event, beginning Friday, July 13th, with the Miss Northwest Pageant at the Historical Holmes Theater, and will conclude on Sunday, July 22nd with everyone’s favorite: The Parade of the Northwest.

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees is an all-volunteer civic organization. Led by the “Admiral,” the Jaycees work hard all year planning and coordinating the Water Carnival, which is supported by our area’s business community. After the parade, the Jaycees traditionally gather by the Pavilion to find out who will be the next Admiral. The Admiral is selected by the current Jaycee President to be in charge of the Water Carnival. The identity of the new Admiral is kept secret until after the Parade, and is the subject of much speculation by Jaycees past and present.


Past Admirals

1935 (1): F. C. Schroeder
1936 (2): Dick Glaholt
1937 Cancelled
1938 (3): Dick Glaholt
1939 (4): Paul Borlin
1940 (5):Norman Olson
1941 (6): John Huss
1942 (7): Bill Piechowski
1943 (8): John Pearson
1944 (9): Elmer Hanson
1945 (10): Maurice Garter
1946 (11): Robert Oman
1947 (12): Ray Glaholt
1948 (13): Wally Kershner
1949 (14): Leroy Carlson
1950 (15): Walter O. Anderson
1951 (16): Wayne Lance
1952 (17): Bob Eide
1953 (18): Bill Steinke
1954 (19): Gordon Hutton
1955 (20): Earl King
1956 (21): Jack Renner
1957 (22): Sigwel Wood
1958 (23): Gerald Price
1959 (24): Dale Hagen
1960 (25): James C. Larson
1961 (26): Duane Wething
1962 (27): Dick Johnston
1963 (28): Curt Cherry

1964 (29): Dave Knutson
1965 (30): Lynn Hummel
1966 (31): Robert Bergquist
1967 (32): John Moling
1968 (33): Arnie Porkkonen
1969 (34): Ed Rotenberger
1970 (35): John Quam
1971 (36): Dave Rogstad
1972 (37): Jim Sinclair
1973 (38): Wayne Benson
1974 (39): Larry Anderson
1975 (40): Dick Duffney
1976 (41): Roger Hesby
1977 (42): David Stowman
1978 (43): Dennis Schurman
1979 (44): Larry Buboltz
1980 (45): Randy Bauer
1981 (46): Brian Lund
1982 (47): John King
1983 (48): Jim Shoemaker
1984 (49): Jerry Rogers
1985 (50): Dale Westley
1986 (51): Glenn Gifford
1987 (52): Mark Hagen
1988 (53): Bruce Imholte
1989 (54): Thomas Reiffenberger
1990 (55): Steve Spaeth
1991 (56): Dave Aune
1992 (57): Carl Malmstrom

1993 (58): T. J. Foltz
1994 (59): Karen Skoyles
1995 (60): Jeff Radermacher
1996 (61): Don Beaton
1997 (62): Ann Jenson
1998 (63): Jim & Dana Gulson
1999 (64): Patti Boller & Greg Nyland
2000 (65): Dawn Olson
2001 (66): Patti Nelson
2002 (67): Rita Stelzer
2003 (68): Tom Trowbridge
2004 (69): Bryan Domholt
2005 (70): Rob DuChene
2006 (71): Josh & Kim Bettcher
2007 (72): Andrew Gag
2008 (73): Cara Frank
2009 (74): Dave & Melissa Opsahl
2010 (75): Nathan & Jackie Weber
                 and Chris & Johnna Thorson
2011 (76): Aaron Lauinger
2012 (77): Jon & Angie Olson
2013 (78): Matt & Amy Boeke
2014 (79): Nick Omberg & Tom Winters
2015 (80): Alma Alaniz & Nathan Woodard
2016 (81): Chris & Aly Larson
2017 (82): Dustin Hildenbrand
                 & Kate Spaeth
2018 (83): Andy Castagneri & Natalie Bly

History of Toonerville Trolley

The “Toonerville Trolley” was a popular cartoon in the major newspapers for over fifty years. In 1953, Dr. Tom Rogstad developed the idea of building a “Toonerville Trolley” to promote the Detroit Lakes Jaycees in Festival Parades around Minnesota. A Studebaker car was acquired by the Jaycees with a bad body but a motor that was in perfect condition. With a great deal of enthusiasm, work began on the very first version of the “Toonerville Trolley”. The body of the car was removed and a wooden structure was built to fit over the Studebaker frame. The framework was then covered with a laminated board called “Masonite” which created the flat panels on the sides, roof, front and back of the Trolley. The completed unit mirrored the human like looks of the cartoon drawn trolley.

With yellow paint and black lettering and a small coal stove to put out black smoke, the unit looked great and garnered a huge amount of attention for the Jaycees. However, when brought up to highway speeds to attend parades in other towns the joints were constantly shifting and the entire assembly was always coming loose. Even though the original version did not last for more than a few years, it set in motion both major and minor revisions which continue sixty years later.

In the late 1950’s, the Trolley was entirely rebuilt. A surplus WW2 jeep was purchased. The wooden frame was replaced with a pipe frame using electrical conduit brazed with brass rod. Sheet metal was then screwed to the conduit to create the sidewalls. The roof, back and front end were made out of wood which was cut into a curve and then covered with sheet metal. This building was done at a company owned by a couple of Jaycees, Earl King and Harry Grabow. Their company did heating and air-conditioning. They supplied the sheet metal and the

equipment to bend it along with the expertise in the formation of the sides. Dale Hagen, an electrician, supplied the conduit and the expertise on bending and brazing (welding with brass rod) the conduit. Heavily involved with this project was also Jack Renner, Duane Wething, Curt Cherry, Darryl Swanson, Dave Knutson and many others whose names have been lost to time.

In 1974 Don Davis, who was given the responsibility of caring for the Trolley, purchased a 1953 Ford pickup chassis. Mark Hagen and Jeff Swanson were drafted to “do a little welding and wiring on the trolley” two nights maximum. This was about the beginning of June. Water Carnival was over a month away. When Don brought the unit to Jeff Swanson’s shop it was discovered the unit needed to be attached to the frame, the back and front rebuilt, new wiring installed, and the entire unit repainted and lettered.

A month of late nights later the trolley still had wet red paint as it was headed to its first Water Carnival event. According to Jack Renner, the 1958 version of the Trolley also entered the Water Carnival with wet paint. In the late 70’s the back end of the Trolley was rebuilt and the color was changed from yellow to red. TJ Foltz was responsible for the Trolley during the late 80’s. During that time it was parked at his house when not in use. TJ arranged for the all metal frame roof to be built and installed which replaced the rotting roof. In addition, TJ’s mechanical and electrical skills were in constant use with upgrades to the PA and the wiring of the unit.

Many businesses over the years have been involved in working on the Trolley as a donation to the Jaycees. They are too numerous to mention but their contributions are what kept the Trolley moving year in and year out. Jim Gulson took over the Trolley in the mid 90’s and replaced much of the rotten wood, put in new carpet, and provided the maintenance to keep it running. Always susceptible to vapor lock the trolley once went through a parade in Barnesville with the Jaycees pushing the entire route. During this time one of the more unusual stories found the Trolley going from Detroit Lakes to Vergas on an old trail dirt trail.

While in winter storage about ten years ago a number of parts were stolen from the Trolley including the carburetor. The engine had been giving problems so the decision was made to make the Trolley into a tow only unit. Certainly something was lost Recently TJ and April Foltz donated their motorhome chassis to breathe new life into making the “Toonerville Trolley” self-propelled again.

The “Toonerville Trolley” has served the Jaycees for well over sixty years. The unique idea, combined with the eternal enthusiasm of young Jaycees, has left behind hundreds of stories, most which will never be told in print.