Pickle Fest

Boyceville’s annual vegetable fest to celebrate the town’s 150th birthday

Ryne Thornsen, photos by Leah Rule

WHAT DILL THEY THINK OF NEXT? A well-bannered parade float from 2009’s Cucumber Fest in Boyceville.

This has been the summer of celebrations for the small town of Boyceville, with big events happening once a month, the biggest of which is still to come. Approximately 10 miles north of Menomonie, Boy-see-ville or Boice-ville (pronunciation depends on what bar you ask) is celebrating its 150th anniversary (or “sesquicentennial”) this year. The small town, with a population barely breaching 1,000, is like so many others, but they sure know how to throw a festival.

Set for Aug. 20-22, Cucumber Fest (referred to fondly by locals as Pickle Fest) overtakes their downtown with arts and crafts, food vendors, a bean bag tournament, softball, a tractor pull, a great steak cookoff, the “Ain’t No One Horse Town” horse parade, a grand parade (with bands, floats, clubs, mom-and-pop businesses with horse-drawn carriages, ATVs, and gussied-up trucks), live music, a firemen’s tent dance, kidsy activities, and pickle sculptures. The locals I chatted with look forward to the small town fellowship of it, with former residents returning to visit old friends and parade emcees cracking jokes about the locals in the crowd and on floats. And people-watching is a huge draw. (Keep a look out for cucumber necklaces!)

    One of the town’s landmarks is the municipal airport (packed with history and used by hobbyists, med-flight, and local businesses), which hosts a kickoff event Saturday morning in which pilots fly over the pancake breakfast.

The festival’s origin lies with Gedney’s, the pickle company that used to employ much of the town. Cucumber fields surrounded the town and the locals would pick the vegetables, drop them off at the processing plant, and receive money in return. One local said he put himself through college with “pickle money,” picking cucumbers every summer until he had enough for tuition. Gedney’s developed Cucumber Fest as an annual event around 1960, and even though they left the area, the third weekend of August is reserved for the tradition.

But the 150th anniversary makes it especially important. Cucumber Fest follows a June celebration for the new veterans’ memorial. The event included a picnic, civil war reenactments, and a Blackhawk helicopter. A July party resembled a birthday get-together, complete with cake and music. But most of the town’s residents have conserved their party energy to ensure they won’t burn out, and can last the duration of the area’s best cucumber-based festival.