Swanville Carnival celebrates 50 years, July 6-8

Ray Loven has been a huge part of the event for the half century

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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The 50th anniversary of the Swanville Mid-Summer Carnival will be Friday, July 6 – Sunday, July 8. Because of the milestone anniversary, the town will be celebrating bigger than ever.

There never would have been such an event in 1962, let alone 50 years of fun, if it wasn’t for long-time resident Ray Loven.

“For the first 10 years of its existence, the Swanville Lions had been selling light bulbs and brooms to raise money. It just wasn’t enough for what the Club wanted to do,” said Ray’s son, Royal. “It was Dick Witschen’s idea to put on an annual carnival.”

The Swanville Carnival will be celebrating 50 years this summer and one of the men who initiated its beginning, Ray Loven, will be celebrating 60 years with the Swanville Lions Club. In May, the Swanville City Park building was named in his honor. Loven is pictured in front of the business he started in 1946. The plaque (left), dedicating the city’s park building to Ray, is prominently displayed.

Royal said that during the first year, the carnival was very primitive. There were a couple of smaller rides, a beer garden, bingo and maybe a hot dog stand. But that was it.

“After the first carnival was finished, one of the charter members, Jack Dulude, thought the carnival needed more food for its patrons,” said Royal.

So, for the second carnival, Ray gathered up two backyard grills, a couple of chickens and Margaret Delude’s special barbecue sauce.

“The whole chicken thing was more or less for show, but the cooks sold out immediately,” said Royal.

So, for the third carnival, Ray built a two-foot by four-foot grill. Since then, the event has grown to now using two huge barbecue grills for the more than 400 chickens they go through each year. The Lions also serve deep-fried chicken to those who want it.

The rides at the Swanville Mid-Summer Carnival have also evolved in 50 years. It’s gone from just a few very small rides for the first several years to about a dozen up-to-date ones today. The Lions have been hiring Gold Star Amusements from Pelican Rapids for the past 15 years. “Their rides are safe and clean and they keep the midway clean, too,” said Royal.

Both Ray and Royal remember the year when the carnival owner came to Swanville several days early to tell the Club all his drivers had quit. He had no way to get the rides from Bemidji to Swanville.

“Dad rounded up several people from town to go to Bemidji and drive the rigs here,” said Royal. “The show went on.”

Because this is the 50th anniversary of the Swanville Mid-Summer Carnival, the Lions are offering happy hour from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., both Friday and Saturday evenings. Patrons may purchase a beer for 50 cents, in honor of the 50th anniversary.

There will also be free can cozies available and Royal said the music will be the best it’s ever been.

“‘Killer Hayseeds’ (country rock) will play Friday night and the ‘Fabulous Armadillos’ (classic rock) on Saturday night,” he said. “During the day Sunday, ‘Wee Willie Orchestra’ will play old-time music, their 10th year at the Carnival and Sunday night, ‘Social Security Express’ will play classic country for their second year here.”

Ray was one of three men in Swanville who initiated the start of the Lions Club in 1951. The others were Delude and Joe Oven. Between the three, they recruited the other 14 charter members. Ray is the only surviving charter member today.

“We had a Commercial Club back then, but they weren’t very active,” said Ray. “We had heard about the Lions in Little Falls and went to one of their meetings. Because of our interest, the Little Falls Club sponsored us and the Club was given a charter in January 1952.

In 60 years, Ray has not missed a single meeting. Twice in that time he was in Seattle visiting family during a meeting in Swanville. Ray would then attend a Seattle Lions meeting, which counted as attendance back home.

Ray was instrumental in adding a swimming beach at Pillsbury Lake, establishing the city park which once was home to the ball fields in town, has held all the top positions in the Lions Club and sat on the Board for more than 20 years. He was on the City Council for a number of years and a member of the Fire Department for more than 20 years.

Because of his interest in the growth and well-being of Swanville, the city’s park building was dedicated to Ray in May.

“I have been on every committee there ever was in Swanville,” he said. “I guess I have been involved in a lot and the people in town appreciate what I’ve done.”