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From battles to mud to historical theater, Kettle River has it all

The heart and soul of Kettle River and surrounding communities will be on display during Ma & Pa Kettle Days on Friday, Aug. 10, to Sunday, Aug. 12.

And so will its history.

More than 100 years ago, there were actually two settlements on the site of the current city of Kettle River.

Everything north of the Soo Line was called Finland, established by mostly Finnish settlers. Many Polish settlers lived on the other side of the railroad tracks; they called their town Kettle River.

Just before the fires of 1918, the two communities consolidated.

To honor those hardy settlers, their descendents host the "Battle of the Flags: Poland vs Finland" behind the Veterans Building on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The winners will be determined by a lot of shouting and purchasing of small flags.

A highlight of the weekend, "Time to Remember," is a 1918 fires character re-enactment written by Dan Reed. It features artists and music by Bob Nordquist from 1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Nordquist and Friends recorded a CD, "Rising from the Ashes," especially for this weekend. The folk singer-songwriter had a cabin near Kettle River and feels a strong connection to the area.

Yeats said she decided she had to get more involved in her home away from home after organizers said the 33rd annual Ma & Pa Kettle Days may be the last.

"By saying that, they got a lot of people thinking that this can't be the end," she said, noting that Ma & Pa Kettle Days represents the city of Kettle River and the townships of Silver, Split Rock, Automba and Kalevala.

"I'm a firm believer these things are very important to the souls of these little towns," she added.

Kettle River is also starting a new tradition this year by recognizing a founding family that has helped the festival over many generations. This year it is the Milczarks, who have been involved in the 34-year-old festival for four generations.

Milczark patriarch George, a 1918 fires survivor, donated a plot of land for the first mud bog. Now the event, which features vehicles trying to make their way through a sea of mud as fast as they can, has been moved to the farm of his son, Scott.

Read George Milczark's tale of the 1918 fires next to this story.

Ma & Pa Kettle Days schedule


Donkey meet-and-greet 4-7 p.m.

Fire Relief Association steak fry 5 p.m.

Miss Kettle River, Junior Miss Kettle River 6 p.m.

Music under the Big Top 8 p.m. to midnight


Pancake breakfast 8-10 a.m.

Poco Baroquo music 8-10 a.m.

Crafts, demos, farmers market 8 a.m.

Parade 11 a.m.

Mud bog races 1 p.m.

Kids treasure hunt 1 p.m.

Hay rides 2-4 p.m.

1918 fires re-enactment 3 p.m.

Barn quilt painting class 1-4 p.m.

Red Cross blood drive 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Music under Big Top All day

Fireworks After dark


Church services 9 a.m. Holy Trinity; 10 a.m. West Side; 10:30 a.m. Apostolic

Battle of the Bars noon

1918 fires re-enactment 1-3 p.m.