Tuesday, September 08, 2009
 
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Mount Pulaski Fall Festival a deep tradition

(Picture courtesy of the Mount Pulaski Township Historical Society. Click on photo for larger image.)

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[September 08, 2009]  MOUNT PULASKI -- Beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday, the village of Mount Pulaski will have its annual fall festival. The festival will run through Saturday night and offers a wide variety of activities for visitors.

Events planned for the weekend include "Cutest Lil Farmer," "Little Miss Mount Pulaski" and "Junior Miss Mount Pulaski" on Thursday evening; "Egg Roulette" and a "Lantern Parade" on Friday evening; and a day chock-full of special events Saturday, including a farmers market, antique tractor display, car and bike show, the dedication of the new bandstand on the courthouse square, and a parade.

In addition to all this, there will be live entertainment going on in various locations throughout the three-day event, amusement rides for the young and young at heart, as well as a beer tent for livening refreshment.

A tradition started 136 years ago

Phil Bertoni, who is an active member of the Mount Pulaski Township Historical Society, said at the August meeting of the society that it is hard to say for sure how many fall events the village has hosted, but he believes that there have been at least 117.

Bertoni found a history of the Old Settlers Association in a flier that was among several items donated to the museum by the First National Bank. According to the flier printed in the society's quarterly newspaper, the ancestor to the fall festival was the "Old Settlers of Logan and Adjoining Counties Re-Union," which was first held on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1873.

The event was for all of Logan and adjoining counties. The host town changed from year to year for a while. The annual event was in Lincoln a few times and in Atlanta at least once; however, the majority of the time the honor went to Mount Pulaski.

Each year the Old Settlers Association would let out for bid to the various towns for the privilege of hosting the annual get-together. Mount Pulaski most often offered to provide the most money and the best of entertainment for the group and therefore won the majority of the dates.

In the flier there is a recap of the decision made on where to have the 22nd annual event:

"The township vice-presidents of the Logan County Old Settlers Association met in Lincoln last Saturday afternoon to fix upon a time and place for holding the 22nd annual reunion of said association. There were but two bidders for the meeting Lincoln and Mount Pulaski. Lincoln offered $125 to defray all expenses of the meeting, while Mount Pulaski guaranteed to spend $400 in providing suitable entertainment if the honor came their way. Of course the matter was immediately settled in favor of our town, not altogether on account of the money offered, but because of the splendid reputation Mount Pulaski has built up for successfully handling public gatherings and especially those of the old settlers."

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This flier also recounts briefly the largest gathering for the event as being the one held on Sept. 13, 1882:

"The tenth was the biggest reunion ever held by this association, occurring in Mount Pulaski Sept. 13, 1882 with 15,000 people present, including 1300 registered old settlers. A barbecue was the great feature, seven beeves, twelve hogs and thirteen sheep being cooked to a turn in a huge steam chest. 500 gallons of excellent coffee was also made and supplied to the great throng. More than 3000 feet of table room was provided, carefully set with nice tableware and everything necessary for a first-class dinner. Oratory was furnished by Cpl. Latham, Judge Matheney, Rolla Diller, Judge Lacey, Gen. Oglesby, Col. Hough, Major John T. Stuart, Rev C. J. White and others. Mrs Hilliard of Lake Fork, aged 101 years was the oldest person present."

Bertoni also noted that one of the biggest events at the celebration was the horse show.

The streets of the village were dirt until approximately 1937. Many of the old settlers brought their horses to the celebration and a large competition was set up on the courthouse square.

As is the case with many reunions, when the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Old Settlers Association passed on, the reunion itself began to dwindle.

However, the people of Mount Pulaski wanted their annual fall celebration to continue. For a period of time, it was renamed to Frontier Days. Betty Hickey, a Mount Pulaski resident and historical society member, said that right before World War II the festival was known as the Fall Fiesta. She recalled that in those days "we had big bands and big dances."

Waneta Stephens also recalled for the group the year that live wild turkeys were thrown out of the upstairs windows for folks to catch for their upcoming holiday feasts.

This year's festival is packed with tons of things for everyone of every age, all carefully planned to celebrate a small-town community with a large love for life and its citizenry. For full details of all the events of the weekend, click here.

[By NILA SMITH]

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