s it turns out, it isn’t Sunnyfields forever. No matter. The Alfalfa Fest may have a new home for the first time in its 17 years, but its outlook and that of several health and education groups that benefit from it remain strong.
“We do what we do, and people have a good time,” said George Christenson, whose group of relatives and friends hatched the idea after George’s wife, Holly Jean, succumbed to cancer in the winter of 2003, but not before she and George were helped and comforted by the efforts of Mayo Clinic’s Hospice.
George’s eyes were opened to the benefits of Hospice. When his group decided to hold an event in the open fields for people to come to and have fun, Alfalfa Fest was born at George’s Sunnyfields Farm south of Prairie Farm near the Barron/Dunn county line.
The modest proceeds from that August 2003 event were donated to Mayo’s Home and Health Hospice and also to educational needs at schools in Boyceville, Ridgeland, Dallas and Prairie Farm. Now, 17 years later, more than $30,000 a year raised by the Alfalfa Fest organization benefits not only Hospice of Mayo but also Lakeview Medical Center Hospice of Rice Lake and St. Croix Hospice out of Frederic and two Twin Cities locations.
In addition, schools benefitting from Alfalfa Fest proceeds now also include Clear Lake and Clayton.
But Sunnyfields Farm would not last forever. George was a year behind me in school, so I know exactly how old he is, my younger good friend from the class of 1970. He sold the farm, that pretty location of flat land east of Hay River, and has moved to his home place a few miles west of Prairie Farm.
So Alfalfa Fest 2019 also moves, but not to worry. It will unwind at Pioneer Park, the pretty stretch of pavilions, playground, horse/tractor/truck pulling track and campsites on the Hay River Flowage in Prairie Farm.
“It’ll be different but we’re going to work everything out,” said George, a shaggy-haired personable type who has knack of mixing a carefree manner with sincerity and optimism.
Alfalfa Fest, where the theme has always been, “Our Grass Is Legal,” will have all the same events as usual on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Pioneer Park. There’s the kids’ scavenger hunt at 11 a.m., the same time the Beer Belly BBQ Team begins serving a chicken dinner. The silent auction also begins then, and door prize drawings run from noon to 2:30 p.m. The live auction follows at 3 p.m. and includes a fishing trip to Canada.
There’s deejay music playing all day, and live music by The Cutaways from 5-9 p.m.
Throughout the day there will be a jump castle and petting zoo for kids, and, yes, the hay rides will continue just as they did at Sunnyfields, with a path cut through the fields west of Pioneer Park. Special burgers are served at 5 p.m., and fireworks at dusk will pay memorial tributes to those loved ones who have passed away.
Alfalfa Fest is run by a dedicated group of volunteers, with Judy Lehman and George fielding the calls for questions and for those folks wanting to donate items for the auctions. Judy can be reached at 715-418-1584, and George at 651-341-5741. Cash contributions can be made at any Dairy State Bank location, including in Prairie Farm and Rice Lake.
It all runs from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., a day of family fun and raising money for good causes. This past year, Alfalfa Fest folks also got involved in a Polar Plunge in Prairie Farm, which added to the year’s final figures.
“We’ll be in the lower $30,000s for money raised this year, said George, adding, “Alfalfa Fest day alone brings in $22,000 to $24,000.”
Then there’s a pause, as just saying those numbers aloud again impresses the guy who helped start it all as a way to say thank-you to Hospice. I almost know what’s coming, and it does.
“We really rock, man,” said George.
Yes, indeed, they rock at Alfalfa Fest.