Robin Hood Days was instituted in 1967 by the Chamber of Commerce, taking place from August 12-19. The celebration featured the crowning of Miss St. Louis Park, who was called Maid Marian. The week of civic programs and parades was named for the Robin Hood Flour grain elevator on Highway 7. Gene Schadow served as Richard the First, and Gil Braun as Robin Hood. Our first Maid Marian was Eloise Berg, chosen from a field of 37 contestants. Princesses Kathie Corcoran and Sheila Siegel were now called “ladies in waiting” in keeping with the festival’s Olde English theme. The festival included many new activities, such as an archery tournament, a rugby exhibition by the Minnesota Rugby Club, a fencing tournament, festival of faith concert, art fair, dance competition, teen dance, tennis tournament, golf tournament, soccer with the Minnesota Kickers vs. the St. Louis Park Plugs, a symphonic concert at Skippy Field, and the Mr. Minnesota contest, held at the high school on August 16.
Thanks to Don Anton we have a home movie of that first parade, with Gene Schadow leading the way on his trusty steed.
In 1968, Robin Hood Days were held August 11-17. Arthur Owens served as King Richard, and Don Johnson was Robin Hood. In addition to the scads of activities planned the year before, this year’s festival included a bridge tournament (contract duplicate bridge, to be exact), a Kiddie Karnival, a flower show, a community sing, family block picnics, softball tournament, family field day, and a presentation of the play “Robin Hood” for the kids, performed by the Alan-a-Dale Players. An elaborate castle-like float was designed by St. Louis Park Sun artist Lawrence Spiegel, and built by construction manager Chester Fujino. The whole thing ended with the King’s Royal Coronation Ball on August 16 and fireworks on the 17th.
In August of 1968, the owners of the Interior grain elevator that was painted with the Robin Hood Flour sign announced that they were going to demolish the structure. It had been closed since May 25, but International Milling Co. had intentionally held off demolition until after Robin Hood Days. In fact, the Manager of the Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying that International Milling had been very instrumental in the inauguration of Robin Hood Days. The elevator was demolished in September-October, 1968.
Robin Hood Days lived on, though, and in 1969 they were held from August 2-8. In July it had been announced that a permanent Robin Hood Days pin had been designed. John S. Allen, Jr. served as King Richard, and Leo Hughes served as Robin Hood. 30 young women competed in the Maid Marian contest, and the winner was Joy Sheekanoff. Ladies in waiting were Marilyn Schultz, and Clariece Locketz. This was the first year for the first Old Timer’s Picnic, organized by Earl Ainsworth and Marie Hartmann, who would soon go on to organize the St. Louis Park Historical Society. A special invitation was issued to people who had lived in the Park for several years. Mrs. Sid Brown and Mrs. Charles Kilbourne, both of whom came to the Park in 1915, met for the first time at the picnic. Another new activity was a jousting tournament, scheduled at Minnehaha Creek near Knollwood/Target. Also at Knollwood was a “bus painting spree.” The parade float was completely redesigned, again by Lawrence Spiegel. As part of the festivities, Roundhouse Rodney appeared at a Kiddie Carnival at Aquila Park. Absent from the festivities was the Community Theater, which was losing strength quickly.
Robin Hood Days 1969
In 1970 Robin Hood Days were held from June 21-27, this time led by Robert N. Benham as King Richard and a dashing Robert Wolfe as Robin Hood. 30 young women vied for the coveted Maid Marian. The winner was Faith Kiperstin, sponsored by Brookside Drug. Runners up were back to being Princesses instead of Ladies in Waiting; they were Sue Hedberg and Lynn Kasma. The 1970 event featured an Olde Towne Picnic on June 27, featuring appearances by Clancy the Cop, the Aldersgate Bell Ringers, and the German Band of the Zurah Shrine.
The fifth and last Robin Hood Days were held in 1971. Jeff London served as Robin Hood, and Al Shapiro was the last King Richard. The event was cut from 7 to 4 days, taking place from June 17-20. Still, it featured a dizzying array of events overseen by Chamber Executive Manager Jon Groth, such as a tennis tournament, bridge tournament, majorette contest (featuring 300 baton twirlers), marathon, soccer games, celebrity softball games, an art fair at Knollwood, and an 87-unit parade attended by 7,000 people. There was also a kiddie carnival at the Belt Line Industrial Park, bingo, a teen dance at the high school athletic field featuring the debb johnson band, the Old Timers’ Picnic (rechristened the Olde Towne Picnic), and the dedication of the newly-moved Historic Depot to the newly-renamed Jorvig Park. Carmen Nelson was our last Maid Marian.
Photos of the Robin Hood float from 1971 courtesy Steve Brown
Steve Brown took this photo of his kids in the kiddie parade. The cart with wheels is the one that Dino the Dinosaur rolled around on at the Roller Garden!
1971 Robin Hood Days float in the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade – Photo by Steve Brown
In September of 1971, the Chamber of Commerce regretfully voted not to continue sponsorship of Robin Hood Days. In addition to the loss of $5,000 (which was covered by carryover), they cited the difficulty of getting volunteers for this very ambitious undertaking. The Chamber would rather funnel its time, energy, and money to pursue its original goal of promoting business development in St. Louis Park. Also, controversies surrounding the building and improvement of highways in the City were demanding much study and discussion.
Initially the Chamber opted to continue sponsorship of the Miss St. Louis Park pageant. But a July 1972 newsletter announced that the Board voted to drop sponsorship of the queen competition, preferring to channel its resources into activities that were more geared to promoting business and not quite so civic.
In 1973 the Chamber, which had seen hard times before, merged with other local Chambers making up the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce. In 1984 this became part of the current TwinWest. The organization had lost its St. Louis Park identity and would not likely sponsor such an ambitious celebration as Robin Hood Days again.