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Old-fashioned wagons on display this weekend in Farmington

Wagons -- and wagon teams -- of all shapes and sizes will be on display this weekend.

If last year was about making the Prairie Home Carriage Festival work, then this year is about making it grow.

For the second year of the festival, which features old-fashioned, horse-drawn carriages, lots of horses and people in period-appropriate clothing, events are expanding from one day to two and there will be a whole lot more going on. This year's festival, scheduled to take place May 1 and 2 at Dakota City Heritage Village, will offer classes in driving carriages, parades and displays. There will be a tack swap and plenty of chances to see how people got around 100 or more years ago.

Mary Block, one of the event's organizers, said the event attracted a lot of interested spectators last year.

"It's quite a draw," Block said. "It's a perfect marriage with the little village that puts on the displays and their history thing, and here comes the carriages through as it would have been back then."

The people who are involved in the festival take their hobby seriously. Block and her husband, John, have been involved in carriage collecting since the early 1970s, when they bought a pony for their child. If you've got one animal, Mary Block said, you can have one rider. But if you hitch that animal to a wagon, you can take the whole family.

The couple's interest grew from there. Now they've wagons and sleighs that have appeared in films and in print ads. They also have a team of reindeer to pull sleighs at Christmas.

There will be carriages of all types at this weekend's events, from single-passenger carts to covered wagons. There will be wagons pulled by giant draft horses and wagons pulled by ponies.

"I even plan to bring a team of miniature donkeys," Block said.

Many of the carriages that are on display are original equipment. Others have been restored.

"I really like the preservation," Block said. "If I can find an original vehicle that hasn't been restored ... that's my favorite. But it's great to see the restored ones, too."

The costumes are also a lot of fun. Many of the people who will bring their carriages to the festival dress in clothing appropriate to the vehicle they're driving and some take on characters to go along with those costumes.

Carriage displays will begin at 10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. There will be educational talks and parades. Classes for beginning and intermediate drivers will take place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be an opportunity to take private classes with the trainer.

Anyone is welcome to bring a wagon, but only members of Minnesota Whips and Wheels will be allowed to participate in the parade.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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