This summer marks the 24th year the Fraasch family has volunteered at Farley Fest. Doug and LaVonne started the tradition which now spans three generations. Doug says, “I signed up back in 1996 because I had served as Chamber of Commerce president for both the Ortonville and Milbank chambers, and knew how hard it was to find helpers.” But the couple discovered it was a lot of fun and it didn’t require a huge time commitment.
Doug says, “I enjoy the interaction with people the most. And, I’m amazed by how many of the artists that play Farley Fest go on to become famous.” LaVonne says, “ I like to see what people are wearing each year. Sometimes it’s spiked heels and shorts, and some years it’s short, short, short shorts.”
Daughter-in-law Michelle Fraasch says she got involved because Doug and LaVonne kept saying how much fun it was. So, she had to see for herself. Michelle now agrees, “It’s a big social event. You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”
LaVonne says, “Our son Wayde is such a people person that Farley Fest is perfect for him.” Wayde usually works in the beer garden, and his wife, Amber, and their son, Elijah, also work the concert. Although, Elijah ,who is a junior at MHS, hopes to move to security detail when he turns 21. Not that he will be overly busy as concert security typically doesn’t run into a huge amount of problems or rowdy behavior. Most years, the weather gets out of hand more than the people. The year Blake Shelton appeared, the wind was so bad a lamppost flew through the window of his bus. LaVonne says, “Doug was taking tickets and I was in a little trailer selling beer and pop tickets. Suddenly, the little trailer was packed with people.”
Doug says, “Nobody missed a beat. They taped up the bus window, drove the bus out to Al’s Body Shop, and the window got fixed that night.” “Blake could have just left.” LaVonne says,”He already had his money. But he moved to the fire hall and finished his concert.” She says, “Shelton’s team said he had a ball playing at the fire hall”
The 2014 concert is also special to LaVonne. Chad Pfeiffer was the headliner and LaVonne, a native of Milbank, discovered her grandmother Dockter was originally a Pfeiffer, and she and Chad were relatives. Distant relatives albeit, but that didn’t stop Pfeiffer’s manager from hauling LaVonne up on to the stage to meet Chad and get a big hug. LaVonne says, “Chad and I still stay in contact and he says he would love to come back to Milbank.”
Food is another fun aspect of the festival for the Fraasch family. In fact, when Doug and LaVonne first volunteered, it was called the Milbank Train Fest and they rode the train noshing slices of pizza during the pizza run and then got off the train to sell concert tickets. Now, the festival includes more food vendors and the family tries to buy an item from each one and share it so they get to sample everything. Doug and LaVonne sample briskets and spicy wings, too, as they are both judges during Q-Fest.
Doug says he thinks if you try Farley Fest you’ll like it. “It’s a great time to see and connect with people. Lots of class and family reunions are also planned during Farley Fest.” Who knows…this story could be about you and your family 24 years from now in 2043!
Pictured: Wayde, Doug, LaVonne and Michelle