This history lesson comes from one of our newsletters. Newsletters are a benefit of membership with the Hopkins Historical Society. Learn more here:
Celebrating the Raspberry
by Mary Raabe
With winter behind us and spring in the air, our thoughts can’t help but turn to summer and our annual Rasp- berry Festival Parade. Do you know how it all began?
The year was 1935 and our country was living through difficult times. The Great Depression lingered on, record heat blanketed the land, war clouds were gathering in Europe, unemployment was at 25 percent and to top it off, Babe Ruth hit his last home run.
But here in Hopkins, any feelings of despair were about to change.
Art Plankers, manager of the first Red Owl store in Hopkins and James Markham, Editor of the Hennepin County Review were having lunch together. Mr. Plankers had observed the farmers returning from the Minneapolis Farmers market and learned they were only paid $1.50 per crate of raspberries. Mr. Plankers thought the berries should be sold for much more.
“Jim,” I said. “You could do a lot of good for these farmers by playing up the raspberry crop”. “What do you suggest doing, Art?” “Why don’t we put on a raspberry day? With your newspaper, you can give it front page play in the local newspapers.” Jim Markham agreed and with only 11 days to plan and with a budget of $350, the two Hopkins men initiated one of the most successful city celebrations ever to emerge from the Depression era.
Committees were formed, fundraising began, farmers were contacted and bands were recruited. Pederson Dairy donated the cream for the raspberries. Chaska Sugar Beets donated 100 pounds of sugar. A parade and evening dance were planned. Minneapolis Mayor Tom Latimer issued a proclamation to all Minneapolis residents, "Motor to Hopkins for 'Raspberry Day'".
Hopkins prepared for 15,000 people. 20,000 came. 7,000 dishes of berries were handed out. Art Plankers encouraged the farmers to sell their raspberries on the street for $3.00 a crate. “We’re going to get a lot of people who will be tickled to death to have a crate of raspberries for $3.00.” He was right and a crate of raspberries never again fell below $3.00.
'Raspberry Day' continues to this day. The name has been changed to the "Raspberry Festival", but we continue our many traditions and we still party into the night!