137th Annual Viola Gopher Count Kicks-Off - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

137th Annual Viola Gopher Count Kicks-Off

VIOLA TOWNSHIP, Minn. (KTTC) -- A celebration more than a century old kicked off in Viola Township Wednesday evening. Before there were even automobiles, people came from all over to celebrate the annual Gopher Count.

This is the 137th year.The annual event is the second oldest continual running celebration in the nation, dating back to 1874. It originated with local farmers choosing teams to see who could collect the most gopher tails. At the end of the event, the winning team was given a picnic.. now the celebration has turned into a family event.

"Everyone you know, you know here and it gives it a little hometown feeling, a close body and you get to hang out with your friends," said event go-er Abby Teed.

For many it's a tradition. An annual gathering that changes the town from 60 residents, to more than a thousand.

"On a good year, we've had as many as 1500 people, we've had as many as 2,000 people for our dance," stated John Wilke, the Viola Gopher Count President.

It's like stepping back in time. You won't find a stop light or even stop sign in the city. But sometimes, simplicity is what brings joy. For the Shea boys, it was the dunk tank.

"You get to throw the balls and then the person goes down," stated Ryan Shea.

"I've done the dunking thing. I've dunked him two times in a row," exclaimed Tyler Shea.

If good conversation isn't enough to hold your attention, there were plenty of folks to watch belt out karaoke tunes.  

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