Wednesday, June 27, 2012

let's talk about Badger Days.

In small towns all across the Midwest, summer is chock-full of celebration weekends. Bruce, South Dakota is the home of Honey Days, and the less-creative Arlington holds Arlington Days. Cokato, Minnesota is the proud host of the Corn Carnival, and Glenwood, Minnesota’s claim to fame is Waterama. When I was a kid, my favorite summer event was Badger Days.

Badger Days takes place in the teeny tiny town of Badger, South Dakota. There are one hundred people living there, and there are only three streets. My grandma Sheila lives there and absolutely loves it. 
She and my grandpa Darwin moved there in the mid-90s, and I was an elementary schooler. Their house was adjacent to the playground, which was heaven for their grandkids.

Badger Days was held towards the end of June each year. It’s been many years since I’ve gone, but when I was a kid, it was a HUGE event. There was dinner at the American Legion, which was usually pork loin sandwiches cooked up by the volunteer fire department. After that, everyone would migrate over to the park and wait for the games to begin.

The games were your standard fare: potato sack races, the wheelbarrow race, etcetera. There may have been your regular old sprinting races, but I didn’t pay attention to those. There was usually some kind of baseball or softball game going on at the same time as all of this, too.

To keep competition fair, the games were divided by age groups. Many of the games required partners, and I always teamed up with my friend and classmate Sarah. We were abysmal at the three-legged race, but we were the leap-frog champions. Why? Because we totally cheated.

I know, I know: cheating at Badger Days? But Sarah and I REALLY wanted to win. When we leap-frogged, the leaper would tuck-and-roll to add a bit more distance. Shame on us, but the first place prize was SO GOOD: three tokens (a piece!) to the Badger store. A token was worth twenty-five cents, and considering that the Badger store sold Tootsie rolls for a penny a piece, you could really make a haul. So Sarah and I cheated at leap frog. Honestly, I think we probably would’ve won without the cheating, but there’s not much to be done about it now. We just wanted to taste sweet, sweet victory.

 Every kid who participated in the Badger Days games got one free “thanks for coming” token at the very end. After all the tokens were handed out, there was a mad rush on the Badger Store. The place was packed, wall-to-wall, with ravenous children. The kids who had gotten first place in a race (or two) had enough for the big-ticket items, like the full-size candy bars. The rest of us loaded up on Blow-Pops and Laffy Taffy. There was one year when I actually had enough tokens to buy a turquoise flashlight.

It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve graced Badger Days, but it really was THE place to be when I was a kid. Not only did you get to play games and exchange plastic tokens for giant amounts of candy, but you got to see all your friends. Badger is an incredibly safe place, so if you’re old enough, your parents will just set you free to hang out with your friends. When you’re eight years old, there are few things more delightful.

So if you’re looking for something to do this summer, locate the nearest small town and find out when their festival weekend is. There will be food and games, and who knows: you might even win a game of leap-frog.


  1. Calla- this is wonderful! I SO miss Badger Days....Alison was always my partner, and I sucked at leap frog, but won at the three-legged every time! Funny memories, for sure. thanks for sharing.

    1. Sarah and I were the WORST at the three-legged race... we would always fall on our faces! Maybe next summer, I'll make it back to Badger Days and try and win leap frog without cheating! :)