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Centennial spices up Poplar Fun Days

Children face off against each other during the 2016 Poplar Fun Days fire hose games. This year, as part of the village’s centennial celebration, an adult competition will be added. Taking place Aug. 5-6, Poplar Fun Days will include a centennial display. Submitted photo

In honor of its 100th birthday, the village is dialing up the fun during the annual Poplar Fun Days. The centennial event stretches over two days this year, Aug. 5 and Aug. 6.

"Come out to Poplar and help celebrate with us," said village trustee Karen Nevin.

Crowd favorites like fireworks, a parade, kids games and a street dance are paired with new offerings, including an adult fire hose competition, skydivers and Time Arc Theatre's production of "A Murder in Poplar."

The play, based on a true 1911 case, centers on the murder of Amnicon Town Supervisor John Hefstedt, and the manhunt that followed.

"This was an unusual story," said playwright Kathy Laakso. "It was never a mystery; everyone knew that James Dygert was the murderer. It was the man himself who was the mystery, seemingly mild-mannered and polite, but yet cunning."

Dygert immediately slipped away from the law, and wasn't found until four months and two more murders later in Minnesota. With a sizeable reward offered for his arrest, chaos erupted when it seemed that everyone saw him at one time or another.

A 10 a.m. parade kicks off the Aug. 5 events, which feature kids' relay races, greased pole and hula hoop competitions as well as bounce houses and a hotly contested adult bean bag tournament.

Village President Randy Jones said he and his nephew, Kevin, plan to regain their bean bag crown, which was won last year by Mike and Riley Stowers.

There will be four performances of "A Murder in Poplar" Aug. 5, and live music will flood the village. Music begins at 11 a.m. and caps off with a street dance 6-10 p.m. featuring Crescent Moon.

Fun Days visitors will have a chance to see the new community garden beside the former Poplar Elementary School and stop by village businesses.

The weekend wraps up with a pancake breakfast and service at Peace Lutheran Church Aug. 6.

Hot off the presses, the village's centennial book will be available to buy. The Poplar Centennial Committee spent years collecting the stories, pictures, maps, illustrations and facts for the 355-page volume.

Poplar businesses, families and organizations all get their own chapters. A list of town officials dating back to 1900, before Poplar was incorporated, is included.

Jones was surprised to see the longevity of some of these leaders. Myrtle Fechtelkotter, for example, served as the village clerk from 1934 to 1977. Audrey Hakkila served as treasurer for 30 years.

"I only had a rudimentary knowledge of Poplar's history prior to this project but I learned a lot during the course of this process," Jones wrote in the book's introduction. "About the families and friends that I've known for years and some that I never knew before."

The centennial is already generating a lot of buzz, Nevin said. A family hosting a reunion Aug. 5 has contacted her and Northwestern High School graduates celebrating their 20th anniversary are expected to drop by.

"Everyone is welcome," Nevin said.

There are still openings for vendors at the event. Nevin said there is no charge to secure a spot.

For more information or to register, visit the Poplar Fun Days Facebook page.