Brown Jug rivalry between Carlton, Wrenshall is decades-old tradition“They were talking about the jug back in the late 1930s and early ’40s,” Wrenshall Superintendent Rick Herman said. “It’s been around a long time, around 65 to 70 years.”
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Growing up a basketball player in Olivia in south central Minnesota, Rick Herman competed in his fair share of rivalry games. Now the superintendent at Wrenshall School, he said it was nothing like when the Wrens collide with Carlton.
That’s because every year the small-town neighbors battle in a rivalry for ultimate bragging rights and – most importantly – the Brown Jug.
Yes, a brown jug. And Herman loves it.
“When I played, we never had anything like that, but I wish we did,” Herman said. “It’s one of those things that we need more of these days. A jug, axe, pig, those things are great and add so much to athletics and school pride.”
Herman said he was recently looking online and came across the history of the small jug that has traveled between the communities over time.
“They were talking about the jug back in the late 1930s and early ’40s,” Herman said. “It’s been around a long time, around 65 to 70 years.”
Yet, for such a long-lasting memento to survive for ages, rules are a must.
• First, the jug is only played for in basketball.
• Second, it can only be won by the visiting team on the owner’s home court.
• And finally, it’s kept the whole year.
“I know when we have it, we put it right out in our trophy case by the front doors,” said Herman. “It’s exciting. I know when those games come around.”
Herman noted that it’s a community event when the jug is up for grabs. He said from students to faculty, much of the talk around town that week is about the jug.
Carlton junior Brooke Camps agreed, explaining that during the week, she and her classmates discuss ideas, make signs and even occupy Facebook, too.
“I love having the Brown Jug,” said Camps, admitting she’s a spirited fan. “I always get more nervous for the jug game. The students all just go crazy. If we win, everyone wants to take pictures and touch the jug afterward.”
Carlton has touched the jug a lot this winter. Following the boys’ season-opening 50-38 win over Wrenshall, last Thursday the Bulldog girls bested the Wrens 68-59, making it a sweep. The Carlton boys team has had the jug the last two years and the girls even longer. Once it’s won, the jug holder marks the date and final score on the outside of the jug every year.
“It’s a cool rivalry,” said Carlton junior Kyle Gunderson. “It’s one of our biggest games of the year. I think I saw dates on it from the ’50s. I basically know the whole Wrenshall team. We always like to talk months before the game.”
Pat Gustafson, a junior from Wrenshall, said the jug games are important, but having lost the last couple occasions, he said his team moves forward.
“Sure it’s a tough loss and it hurts for a while,” Gunderson said, “but we get over it. The jug makes things intense, though. Really intense.”
Gustafson said the jug usually sits on the scoring table while the game is in action. 0-for-2 during his varsity career, Gustafson hopes to get his hands on the jug soon.
“I haven’t gotten to hold that thing yet, but it’s at the top of my list,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get to next year. We’ll be going back there for our payback.”
On the other hand, in four years of playing, Camps said she’s never lost a jug game.
“Nope, I don’t think so,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I haven’t.”
Despite wins and losses, second-year Carlton Athletic Director Tracy Bockbrader said Tuesday evening that the community rivalry is neat.
Bockbrader, who grew up in Cloquet, admitted she didn’t hear about the popular event until she began teaching science in Carlton around six years ago.
“Some students were talking about it one day, and I didn’t know anything about it,” she said, honestly. “Now I’m into it.”
Like Wrenshall, Bockbrader said if the Bulldogs win the jug – or at times, jugs – it will be displayed in the school’s trophy case entering the gymnasium. She said they usually need extra staff when Wrenshall comes to town, as the long-standing game is always crowded.
“It’s always a packed house here,” she said. “Everybody wants the jug.”
Carlton Coach Adam Bailey is in his first year coaching. A go-to player for the Bulldogs a decade ago, he said he now realizes the importance of the historic jug.
“There’s no doubt, the Brown Jug is exciting,” Bailey said. “When I played, I didn’t understand how important it was, but now, as a coach, it’s intense. Whether you’re Carlton or Wrenshall, winning that game can make or break your season.”
Whether it’s playing or coaching, Bailey said the contest is a pleasure.
“Even years ago when I played, the games were never a throttling, they were always fun, even if you won by 25,” continued Bailey. “Sure, it’s a rivalry between both schools, but it’s not just a ‘W’ on a piece of paper you’re getting.
“You get the jug,” Bailey continued. “It’s not easy to get back, either.”
And so the Brown Jug rivalry lives on. One year after the next.