By Brad Mosher
It was a really big show that lasted three days and reached from one end of Hettinger County to the other.
The New England “Music in the Park” weekend was full of surprises even for Gordon Rettinger, the event organizer.
But New England wasn’t the only venue.
“It was actually a ‘three-dayer’,” he said. “On Friday, we had the homestead tours to Regent, Lefor. We took in a lot of homesteads and cemeteries. We had a tour guide. We had three full buses,” he said.
That interest continued through the rest of the weekend, with music in the park, along with hay rides and other activities, he added.
The only downside to Friday’s events was after the speech by Mary Louise Defender Wilson, an elder in the Hidatsa tribe, Friday evening in the Memorial Hall. Recent rains and wet muddy condition forced the cancellation of a trip to nearby Rainy Butte.
But the cancellation didn’t stop Wilson from making a pilgrimage of sorts to Rainy Butte, a place considered to be sacred by many of the local tribes.
“She took an offering,” he noted, even though the Friday tour had been canceled. “But it took four-wheel drive successfully make the journey.
Originally, they had planned to take three school buses to Rainy Butte but land owner Kenny Urlachler had called to say it was too muddy for buses.
Wilson thanked her relatives for coming to Friday’s event in New England. She gave her view on a rugged raised plateau southwest of the city. “It is really a wonderful place in this great country of ours. This land we have here is really, really good. If you have heard stories from your ancestors you know they feel the same way my ancestors thought about this land,” she explained, joking that she would not speak too long because people were sitting on ‘hard chairs.’
Rainy Butte was special to Wilson. “It was a place I’ve wanted to see for a long, long time. It is unfortunate that people who do not know our language will name things in this land.
“The north side of Standing Rock (reservation) is bordered by this river. We call it the “River that has Etched Rocks”… there is nothing about a cannonball at all,” she added with a chuckle.
She also recalled that her clan grandfather told her about the river. “Along the river, there are seven places where rocks have etchings on them. I know of only two. I have visited only two. One at the confluence of the river and the Missouri.”
She asked Rettinger if he had heard of any other sites along the Cannonball and Wilson recalled him telling her about one that was very high up on the bank. “With the water as high as it is, maybe Troyd (Geist) we can get a motorboat so that we can go along there,” she said, joking with the North Dakota folklorist who introduced her Friday evening.
Although the rain and mud did put a little bit of a damper on things, the rest of the weekend went well Rettinger explained.
The Saturday musicians did a great job performing for the crowd Saturday, with Josh Kehr, who grew up in New England, drawing a lot of interest, Rettinger said.
“The entertainers that came… We were very fortunate to have the people of that quality come,” he added. In addition to Kehr, he also praised Theodore Roosevelt (Joe Weigand) for giving a “bully” performance in New England.
The attendance was a little lower Sunday, he added. “On Sunday, a lot of older people showed up.”
The weekend took visitors all over Hettinger County, from New England to various homestead and even some stops in Regent where he praised the local hospitality
The trip to Rainy Butte was just one of the offers for people visiting. “We were all over the country. We drove right into Regent to the City Park on Main Street. Brenda Wiseman had food on table in the park.
“We had three big buses packed with people,” he said, and the people in Regent had set up several tables in the park.
Seventy-four people and entities who helped make the event a success, including people who volunteered to clean up afterwards Saunday evening.
But the one thing that Rettinger remembers is something that Ron Mellmer told him. “His family (Mellmer) was very instrumental. He (Ron) told me that it was good for the memories,” Rettinger said.
In addition to Kehr, Weigand and Wilson, the musical weekend in the park also had Colleen Reinhardt, Debi Rogers, Chuck Suchy, Ed Prause and the Queen City Polka Band along with Clyde Bauman/Mylo Hutzenhuhler on Sunday.
“They (the musicians) were great,” Rettinger added.