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Rochesterfest has come a long way in 30 years

We’re now in the middle of Rochesterfest’s 30th anniversary. The festival started as a celebration of Rochester's 125th anniversary in 1983.

The following year, Mayor Chuck Hazama told the city he’d had many good comments from the first celebration, and he asked, "Why can’t we do this every year?" So a celebration of a city was born.

The first year the festival button was $2; this year it’s $5. Ann Chafoulias was the first chairwoman; this year it’s Alan DeKeyrel.

The parade is Friday night at 6:15 p.m., proceeding east on East Center Street. About 118 units have applied to be in a parade, which will be viewed by 15,000 to 20,0000 people along the route.

That 1983 parade started from Soldier’s Memorial Field, came north up Broadway and finished at Silver Lake. There were 165 units. Eric Strobel, a Mayo High graduate and member of the Olympic hockey team, was the grand marshal. He was a member of "The Miracle On Ice" Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team three years before.


A dozen Clydesdales were in the parade. Les Fields and the Turkey River All-Stars were in a fire truck. Several parades later, the old truck was running out of gas.

Well over a decade ago the parade was moved east of Broadway, making it easier for emergency vehicles to pass.

That first Rochesterfest included a float depicting surgery at Saint Marys Hospital. Also a float carrying Dr. Charles H. Mayo II, the grandson of Dr. Charlie Mayo of the "Will and Charlie team."

Charles and wife Carrie rode in a carriage with fringe on top. On Aug. 10 that week, Rochester Civic Music presented a concert in Mayo Park with NBC’s Willard Scott, guest conductor. Yes, that first year Rochesterfest ran Aug. 7-14.

My how our city has grown from an estimated 60,000 in 1983 to around 110,000 today. 100-year-old Reba Kelly rode in that first parade. The treasure hunt was "The Search For Dr. Mayo’s Stethoscope."

I broadcast the parade on KWEB radio from the balcony of what was then Marquette Bank. It was a great week of celebration. Former Mayor Hazama, the "father" of Rochesterfest, has come back each year from Hawaii for the festival.

This Saturday is the 25th anniversary of Country Breakfast on the Farm. It’s a return trip to Gar Lin Dairy farm about 3 miles southeast of Eyota. Take a free bus ride to the farm from the north lot of Willow Creek Middle School starting around 6:30 a.m. Last bus leaves for the farm at 10:45 a.m. Breakfast is served by Chris Cakes Catering from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The bus ride is free if at least one person in your party has a Rochesterfest button.

The meal includes pancakes, cheese, sausage, coffee, milk and juice. Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12 and free for children younger than 5. Horse-drawn wagon rides, a petting zoo and agricultural educational displays are part of this. The Rochester Ag Committee and Olmsted County Farm Bureau are the sponsors of Country Breakfast. It’s a nonprofit venture depending on donations.


Country Breakfast became one of the major events of Rochesterfest in 1988. It has been a good association with "Celebration of a City." As for the return trip to Gar Lin Dairy, we were there in 1994 when 550 to 600 cows were milked. Today that number is 1,650 to 1,700.

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