The DJJD Festival is back!



One hundred forty-five years ago a notorious outlaw gang rode into town with plans to rob the First National Bank, but brave citizens of Northfield rallied to the cry, “Get your guns, boys—they’re robbing the bank!” and denied them one more cash withdrawal.  That day, brave men put their lives on the line and defended their bank and their right to live in peace, and the James—Younger Gang was never the same.  For a complete account, go here.  

Unlike the folk hero of dime novels of the past, Jesse James was ruthless and cold-blooded.  He robbed railroads, stagecoaches, and banks for personal gain.  Killing those who resisted was the price of doing business.  The people of Northfield disagreed.  They chose to honor the good and the honorable, not romanticized villains.  So, every year on the weekend after Labor Day since 1948, Northfield has been doing just that—honoring those brave townspeople who refused to give in to the terrorism of the James-Younger Gang.  Those respectfully remembered are:  JS Allen who sounded the alarm, AR Manning and Henry Wheeler who used firearms to shoot and kill the lawless desperadoes who attacked them, bank cashier Joseph Lee Haywood who refused to open the vault and was killed for it, and Nicholas Gustafson, an unarmed Swedish immigrant, who was caught in the fray.  

Make room in your schedule for this year’s festival.  What should you expect?  COVID-19 waylaid most of the activities of the 2020 DJJD but not so this year!  Minnesota Governor Tim Walz removed capacity limits and additional COVID-19 restrictions in May allowing the DJJD Committee, City staff and local health officials to move ahead with plans for this year’s 2021 DJJD Celebration.  Radio station KYMN reports that Northfield Chief of Police Mark Elliot is “working closely with the organizing committee in order to ensure that there are minimal public safety concerns,” and expects this event, like other recent outdoor community events, will not be greatly affected by COVID-19 virus concerns.   

If you are a bit skeptical about this, you might want to carry a face mask and small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket, just in case.  For those sunny days, pack suntan lotion, water, and wear a hat.  The website answers questions on their FAQ page about BUTTON EVENTS, transportation, parking, and food.  They list events, contests, games, carnival rides, arts and crafts and fine art shows, and much more.  You will also find a downloadable brochure. Some events to note are the Vintage Baseball game, Sundowners Car Show and Cruise Route, the Antique Tractor and Truck Pull, Bank Re-Enactments (bring your ear plugs!), the Kiddie Parade, and the Joseph Lee Heywood Memorial Service at noon on Wednesday. Don’t forget the Sutton Rodeo where you'll find Edina Realty handing out children's cowboy hats as door prizes (supplies limited!)  And, for your own special memories, bring a camera.

If you are new to the Defeat of Jesse James Days Celebration or you simply need a reminder, you might be interested to know that this event draws many visitors to Northfield—LOTS of visitors—more than 150,000 over the course of the celebration.  So be advised that you should plan ahead, buy tickets early, be prepared to wait in lines, and enjoy the community spirit.

I recommend the carnival rides for the kiddos and the vintage baseball game for your inner historian. A literal "throw back" to yesteryear, vintage baseball is a sight to see. Other highlights include the parade on Sunday with hundreds of entries featuring not only local businesses and organizations, but dozens of regional festivals and events also. Look for Edina Realty in the red sportscar!