**article found online**
Anoka County History
archive of anoka county history columns from abc newspaper
Originally published on february 5th, 2010
THE FIRST SNOWFLAKE DAYS
by June Anderson
On June 12th 2009, the City of Coon Rapids celebrated its 50th birthday. In anticipation of this event, the Coon Rapids Historical Commission asked old-time residents to contribute stories to their project, “50 Stories for the 50th.” With their permission I have been sharing excerpts from some of their stories in the History column of this paper during the year-long celebration. Today’s story is about the first Snowflake Days Celebration.
In her narrative about moving to Coon Rapids, Jackie Dingley reminisces about community and celebration. “Being community-minded, a number of people in our neighborhood joined the Jaycees, as we did as well. In fact, we were the group who founded Snowflake Days, the celebration that was mainly the idea of Chuck Austin. He lived on our block and recruited many of us to get involved.”
According to Phyllis Erickson, “Coon Rapids Snowflake Days was originated in 1964 as a project of the Coon Rapids Jaycees. Held during the month of February, it was conceived as a civic celebration in which everyone in the city could participate in some way. Chuck Austin was primarily responsible for the idea. He brought his ideas to a Jaycee meeting, and it took off from there.”
In his own narrative Chuck Austin shares his thoughts about the genesis of the project in which he played such a major role. “As we met our neighbors and other residents, I began to realize that Coon Rapids was the hometown of hardly anyone. People were always going back home on vacations, holidays, and for special events. Since it seemed like the Jaycees were the most active group in the city, my wife, Marie, and I joined them. When I served as Jaycee Week Chairman in 1964, it became apparent to me while traveling around the community that we were scattered and had no cohesiveness as a city.
“There was discussion about changing the name of the city because “Coon Rapids” was a ‘backwoodsy’ name. I wrote a long letter to the Coon Rapids Herald reasoning that instead of changing the name, we needed to get busy, pull together, and change our image from that of a third tier suburb of Minneapolis to becoming our own home town.
“It seemed to me that a community wide activity could be the crucible for the stirring of success in this endeavor, thus the idea for ‘Snowflake Days,’ a city wide celebration, came to me. Many people were gone in the summer but we were all here in the winter after Christmas. I saw the opportunity to use the Jaycee Chapter as a springboard to launch the “Snowflake Days” activities.
“The first year was hard as we had limited resources but some great ideas. We used canvas topped pop-up campers for our headquarters on Crooked Lake. My wife, Marie, and our kids popped and bagged twelve pounds of popcorn in little paper bags and stacked them in Holsum Bread Company cartons which we hauled out to the lake to sell along with urns of hot chocolate. We held races, snow sculpture contests, and other winter events.
The second year we added a Queens’ contest chaired by Jan Ruis with husband Mark escorting the Snowmobile Parade of Queen Candidates around the community. The winner competed in the Miss Minnesota Pageant in Austin, Minnesota.”
“Chuck was honored as being the first Snowflake Marquis in 1969. Over the years Snowflake Days has grown to become a major winter celebration in this area. The hope was and is that every civic organization will schedule some activity to take place during Snowflake Days. It is truly a midwinter festival that the citizens of Coon Rapids can be proud of”…Phyllis Erickson.
**June Anderson served on the Coon Rapids 50th Anniversary Committee and was a member/volunteer of the Anoka County Historical Society**