Latest News

Storm doesn’t derail fun of Tioga’s Freedom Festival

 

Posted 7/07/15 (Tue)

Storm doesn’t derail fun of Tioga’s Freedom Festival

By Nicky Ouellet
With the crack of the bat, Brent Bugbee sent his teammates home in a line around the bases at the Freedom Fest softball tournament on Saturday.
The last time they walked like that was 10 years ago at their high school graduation.
Class of 2005 members were among the crowd attending Freedom Fest events in Tioga over the weekend. Not even cracks of lightning, high wind, hail or the delay of fireworks could derail the celebration.
Swathed in their class colors of red, white and blue, 13 members of Tioga’s Class of 2005 made the trek from Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson to reflect on 10 years of changes.
“I don’t see anything the same,” said Roxanne Haim, who drove out from Bismarck for the reunion. “It’s always changing.”
Tyler Hawkinson, who returned to Tioga after a year of college, agreed.
“Everything’s changed. The town, the high school, nothing’s the same as 2005,” he said.
But some parts of Tioga’s Freedom Festival stay the same.
At the parade line on Saturday morning, Mary Anne Holm directs floats, motorcycles and antique cars to the lineup. 
“We have it down to a science,” she said. 
Organizers rely on annual returnees for the parade to run smoothly. And this year it did, despite construction on Main Street.
Among the decorated vehicles was Wilcox Wonser Heating Service’s antique truck. Norm Wonser used this vehicle to move his family from Portland, N.D., to Tioga in 1953. 
Ownership of the vehicle changed hands several times in the following decades, and it wasn’t until eight years ago that daughter Suzi Anderson and son Scott Wonser tracked it down in Maine. They convinced the owner to sell the vehicle back and hired a local high school student to fix it up. 
Scott comes up from Casper, Wyo., each year to drive his father along the parade route.
“I’m real happy,” Norm said from the passenger seat.
Down at the Farm Festival grounds, teams limbered up for the softball tournament while the Fire Department set up tarps for the foam pit.
Ken Duncanson sat to the side, comfortable in a portable wheelchair under a wide umbrella to block the sun.
“I know Tioga puts on a nice program here,” he said while watching kids splash through a mountain of foam.
Alex Grubb, a volunteer firefighter, oversaw rural chief Jim McGinnity as he directed an aerial spray by remote control.
“They come every year, more by the dozen,” Grubb said as McGinnity splashed Duncanson’s umbrella from above.
“I needed a little of that!” Duncanson said.
Activities came to an abrupt halt later, when a storm blew in. Heavy rain and hail flooded the pits the fire department dug for the fireworks and sparked a fire at a saltwater disposal facility.
By the time fire crews returned from fighting the blaze, it was too late to re-dig the pits. The show was postponed until Sunday night, when it went off without a hitch.
The rains also delayed the softball tournament by an hour, but the class of 2005 stuck it out to the end to place second in the tourney.
“I think our class has always had good athletes,” said Haim.