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Farmington celebrates 40 years of summer festival

Farmington Dew Days festival celebrates 40 years of fun this summer. Longtime Farmington resident Fred Schmidtke shows off his collection of 36 buttons from past decades. Kara Hildreth / Contributor

Farmington's summer festival celebrates a 40-year milestone this summer.

Dew Days carries a long tradition of community togetherness with the parade, Kiss the Pig contest fundraiser, and button sales that encourages shopping local with discounts at local businesses.

Longtime resident Fred Schmidtke, 81, is the beholder of his beloved vest that showcases 36 of 40 years of Dew Days buttons. His button vest was on display in a cabinet at the Rambling River Center.

As a native to Farmington and a former Farmington Jaycees member, Schmidtke ran Fred's Mobile station for years in downtown Farmington. Then Schmidtke helped lead the centennial celebration for the city of Farmington in 1972 where he traveled to St. Paul for the proclamation with the governor and traveled in a caravan of cars to area towns.

At the beginning of the summer festival's origins, it was called Mountain Dew Days because Farmington was a top consumer of the green soda.

"That is because our nephew and our son drank Mountain Dew all-day long," said Dorothy Schmidtke.

The summer festival name was renamed Rambling River Days for a couple years. Then festival organizers on the committee decided to shorten the name to just Dew Days since this was more recognizable for many generations.

One festival founder, Jim Bell, is a past parks and recreation director for the city. Bell is the owner of a large personal collection of Farmington Dew Days T-shirts from past decades. Bell has been a cheerleader for the summer festival and has given hundreds of hours and effort to keep the festival events running. In recent years, Bell directed the popular bed races.

Bell's daughter Julie McKnight has remained active on the Dew Days committee for years.

"It is very important that it continues and it is important it stays healthy," McKnight said. "I want it to be something that people attend like the Flavors and bingo."

Schmidtke commented how he believes the Flavors event is an outstanding program.

Today Schmidtke is in charge of the bike auction fundraiser for Rambling River Center. This year the bike auction has been moved from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon with bike viewing from 3 p.m. and bidding at 4:30 p.m.

This can be a great time to pick up a new or used bike for the kids or find an extra bike for family rides, Schmidtke said.

"My favorite event is the bed races," McKnight said.

Like most summer festivals, it can be challenging for volunteers to step forward to organize, run or brainstorm new ideas to keep the festival thriving. Dew Days usually has eight to 12 volunteers to make sure all the events keep running.

"We are always looking for new volunteers and even this year we have some new volunteers," McKnight said.

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