Posts Tagged: nordic fest

Probituary, A Notice of Life: Ernest “Pokey Pete” Peterson!

PokeypostcardErnest “Pokey Pete” Peterson was born in the spring of 1925 in Cedar Falls, IA. He grew up on a farm just outside of Osage where milking and chores took the place of extra curricular activities, but also accounted for a strong family life and respect for hard work. He joined the US Navy on Thanksgiving Day 1943 and from an early age figured out that he didn’t personally need much money, especially when it could be better used helping children and those in need. In August of 1968 Ernest paid off his bills and bought the best riding lawn mower he could find, a Massy Fergeson, as it would need to be red to be the locomotive of his train. Two wooden cars – a “coal car” and a caboose were built in his basement that winter, and moved up in the spring so that a fun, new attraction could be presented at the many rural town festivals across eastern Iowa. And of course it would raise money for charities.

Ernest knew his operation needed to run entirely non-profit – “morally non-profit” as he says – from covering his own expenses, to sharing the proceeds with those in need with no judgment or concern. All of his proceeds, including much of his janitor’s salary, an incredible sum nearing $400,000 total over three decades went to charities such as the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald house of Iowa City, private individuals in need, and more. He also rang bells for the Salvation Army in Cedar Falls – complete with his railroad engineer’s outfit on, for 35 years.

Pokey Pete, aka “Troll’s Trolley” was (and still is) an institution at Decorah’s Nordic Fest, where he donated his train to the Decorah Lion’s Club in 1989. You can read more about Mr. Peterson’s incredible contributions in the new book by Dawn Svenson Holland entitled “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong”.

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1) What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Take your own advice! Actually, my parents didn’t do a lot of talking, but they sure set by example.

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

I didn’t know there was another job other than farming – my brothers and I milked 25 holsteins – an hour and a half every morning and every night. There wasn’t time for the other activities, and I didn’t get exposed to the problems that people have today.

3) What did you do?

I came back in ‘45 and just looked for a job – whatever was available. A short time at the Rath packing plant, and then at that time in the 50’s we had 9 dairies bottling and delivering milk to homes. I thought the dairies would go on forever – Carnation and Walnut. So I worked there, but as of about 1970 there wasn’t a milk bottler in Cedar Falls. I got to sanding floors for 10 years after that – I just took what was available at the time. And then I became the school house janitor at Orchard Hills school in Cedar Falls for 16 years. The school job allowed me to take my vacation days off to drive the train.

4) If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you want?

Hahaha, well it ain’t ever gonna’ happen! Well, look around your home. Who needs all this stuff? Not me – we could all get by with a lot less.

5) Try to describe yourself in one or two sentences:

I was just a carnie operator doing my job, if you want to call it that. I’m awful proud I did it (the train) and made all the decisions myself. And you need to do what you believe.

6) If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I don’t eat to eat. The hunger to over eat is pitiful.  You learn that on the farm too – you work to eat, and eat to work, and exist. I can live without food now almost – I’m 91. I have my 2 slices of toast, but I don’t ever expect too many tomorrows at my age.

7) Name one thing you could not live without:

We all need a dream, and you have to get to living that dream.

8) Tell us about…

Your Wedding Day:
I was married in 1947, for ten years – but things didn’t work out. We didn’t see the same way about money. Then there was a nice young lady that lived near my folks – Juanita and I got married in 1958. She had been through a tough marriage as well – we both had our challenges, but those 2 negatives made a positive. The only job she travelled with me on each year was to Nordic Fest, as it was more than one day. She ran the “Station”, and Gary Svenson always had someone lined up that we could stay with. That was the only job she came with me on each year.

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Your favorite memory:

There are many, but the times when I would help a toddler get up on the train engine and walk them in a circle letting them drive. Parents, and kids, loved that – taking pictures, their little darling was the engineer. I did too. I gave the train away in ‘89 (to the Decorah Lions Club), one of my biggest helpers telling that story was Paul Harvey. I gave away the rest of my money on my 90th birthday, just before I came to the Western home. What I did, you know, I wasn’t Mickey Mouse or Super Man – I’m just a human. Its time we all get back to doing more human things. ——————–

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Benji Nichols can remember riding on the Pokey Pete (or “Trolls Trolley”) train from a very young age. Getting to interview Ernest for this article and realize the magnitude of his extreme generosity have been a major highlight for Inspire(d).

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Read the Summer 2016 Inspired Magazine

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Inspired Magazine Summer 2016!

Welcome to the 2016 ‘Summer’ issue of Inspire(d) Magazine! As always, the summer issue of Inspire(d) has a fun local food theme. This year we explored the Roots of Food – family recipes and the stories that go with them. Next, we take a leap back in time with 50 Years of Nordic Fest Fun (plus an infographic!), share our Bike Love and ride ideas, have a quick Q&A with musician Mason Jennings, an “organic” business conversation with Sno Pac Foods in Caledonia, and the community series takes us to Cresco, Iowa. Plus, of course, you’ll still find all our regular features like the monthly calendars (wow – it’s going to be a fun summer!), What We’re Loving, and a very, very special back page probituary with an extremely inspirational figure from Nordic Fest’s history – you’ll just have to read it to find out!

Click on over to read the whole Summer 2016 Inspire(d) online.

Also: This is our largest issue to date! We’re super excited to have increased to 84 pages for this summer, and our circulation has expanded too – 16,000 magazines will go out to the Driftless Area and beyond. Woot!

A million thanks to our talented contributors:
• Illustrations by the incredibly talented and wonderful Lauren Bonney.
• Writing Contributions from Sarah Friedl-Putnam, Kristine Jepsen, Jim McCaffrey, and Joyce Meyer.
• Photos for our community story on Cresco from Tanya Riehle of Blue House Studio and Jessica Rilling.

And a huge, massive, very grateful thanks to all of our advertisers. They are the reason we have been able to create 46 issues of Inspire(d) and continue this awesome “experiment in positive news.” Buy local! Please support the awesome local businesses of the Driftless Region. And when you visit our advertisers, let them know you saw them in Inspire(d)!

If you’d like to see where you can pick up a copy, please click over to this link. Magazines will be on stands in early June, but often go fast. If you’d like to see them somewhere in your neck of the woods, drop us a note! (benji @ iloveinspired.com)

Now get out there and enjoy the summer!

-Aryn, Benji, & Roxie

Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong

NordicFestBookCover(Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong, book cover design by Deb Paulson)

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into by committing to this book,” admits Dawn Svenson Holland, author of “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong.” “It’s been more time-consuming than I ever expected, but it has also been more rewarding – it’s felt like a labor of love.”

As Decorah prepares to celebrate the 50th Annual Nordic Fest July 28-30, 2016, Dawn Svenson Holland, daughter of longtime Fest historian Gary Svenson, credits her father’s work preserving history in researching the book. “I could not have completed this project without the clipping books my father put together,” she says. “And I do believe that had he been alive, he would have written this book.”

The project has been a passion for Dawn Svenson Holland and a small creative team including graphic designer Deb Paulson, and publisher Erik Anundsen. The process and research leading up to it has also been archived on a blog at: http://nordicfest50.blogspot.com/

The 300-plus-page coffee-table book will support the permanent placement of the Nordic Fest archives at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. The book includes 22 chapters of Fest history, as well as a section for recording personal memories. It also includes a DVD with archival footage of the first Nordic Fest and a promotional video made for the 25th Nordic Fest.

Presale orders may be placed online at www.nordicfest.com, or in person with cash or check at the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, 507 West Water Street.  The presale cost for each book is $50, with a limit of five books per person. The cost increases to $65 per book at Nordic Fest.

Mange Takk!

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2016 Nordic Fest Button Logo by Lauren Bonney.