The annual Defeat of Jesse James Days truly is an event that offers something for everyone.
Operating since 1948, Minnesota’s largest all-volunteer festival is a feat to be seen for the uninitiated, as well as a darling of the locals. The five-day event, starting the Wednesday after Labor Day with a graveside memorial of Joseph Lee Heywood and Nicolaus Gustafson (more on that later), it’s a long, fun adventure each year that brings hundreds of thousands of people to the city of 20,000.
Here are five events you cannot miss – as hard as it is to narrow this list down to five.
Bank Rank Re-enactments
The reason we’re here. In 1876, the James-Younger Gang (you know, the one with Jesse James), rode into town with the idea of robbing First National Bank. Fortunately, Joseph Lee Heywood, the fill-in clerk for the day, refused to open the vault for the notorious gang that day as town people gathered outside of the bank to fight back. Relive the tense showdown through one of the eight bank raid re-enactments throughout the weekend. Note: There are horses and pistols that discharge blank rounds.
P.R.C.A. Professional Rodeo
With one show Friday night and two on Saturday, the P.R.C.A Professional Rodeo is a longtime tradition of DJJD. Run by Sutton Rodeos, a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo run by five generations for more than 75 years, you will experience a high-quality stock and professional rodeo. On Friday, the first 1,500 paid admissions will receive an American flag and on Saturday’s 2pm rodeo, the first 400 kids will receive a cowboy hat! Saturday night is Give Cancer the Boot Night where the first 500 people will receive pink bandana!
Four full days of fun. Starting on Thursday for Townie Night, the Entertainment Center, conveniently located in Bridge Square at the heart of Northfield, will be rocking with music. Acts over the weekend feature Old Country Boys, Wasted Talent, Them Pesky Kids, Moses Oakland, Jason Paulson, Chad Johnson, Russ Franek and the 8th Street Band. On Sunday, NFL games, in their first full weekend, will be broadcast and the tent will play host to the Minnesota Pipes & Dreams following the Grand Parade.
The Grand Parade
This is the show of shows. Given the size of Northfield, it has no business having a parade this big, this well-planned and this fun for the thousands upon thousands of people who line Division Street for miles to witness the attraction. Make sure you get there early and claim a good plot of land, because the parade will take between 90 minutes and two hours. It’s well-run and well-attended.
Riverfront Fine Arts Fair Festival
A newer addition to the Defeat of Jesse James Days, the Riverfront Fine Arts Fair Festival has grown quickly and welcomes many, many visitors to the Cannon River Riverwalk. Painting, woodwork, pottery and more are represented at this fine art festival on Saturday and Sunday. More than 60 fine artists and fine craft makers are present to show off and sell their wares.