Henning history tour kicks off community festival on July 9-11

Throughout the weekend, you can enjoy a parade, 5K, softball and bean bag tournaments, water wars, a craft and flea market, rides, fireworks and a car show.

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The Henning Landmark Center once operated as a medical practice and is now a non-profit center for the arts and community, and is being considered for the list of National Register of Historic Places. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal, July 2021

If you don’t know the name Einar Mickelson, it’s probably because the story came as a new lesson of history for some Henning community members.

Mickelson is a hometown hero, as Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke described him, for his time with the Flying Tigers during World War II. He first joined the Naval Air Corps in May 1941 but decided to resign from the peacetime navy since the United States was not expected to enter the war. He headed to the American Volunteer Group, or the Flying Tigers , who fought against Japan in Burma (Myanmar) and China. Mickelson finished with the China National Aviation Corporation when he died in a plane crash in February 1944 after the plane disappeared.

While he was born and lived in other places, Mickelson’s parents lived in Henning and he helped organize Boy Scout Troop 97. The Fergus Falls Municipal Airport was also named after Mickelson.

He is part of the roots that represent Henning as shared in a downtown walking tour led by Schuelke that kicked off the Henning Festival. What started as Pease Prairie and East Battle Lake changed to Henning in 1884 after a donation of a bell to the first church from Northern Pacific Railroad employee John Henning. The village was noted for its rich prairie and abundant wood, Schuelke said.


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A memorial in Henning City Park honors those who pioneered the town. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal, July 2021

In the original city hall on Fergus Avenue, community members could enjoy basketball, the library and liquor store alongside the offices, court and police station also housed there. Businesses of car dealerships, an ice cream store and a Land O’ Lakes creamery, bakery, Rex’s Theater, cafes and clothing stores once lived on these streets.

One business run by father and son, Gust and George Smith, opened in 1946 as a farm and home supply store. Another car dealership sold military jeeps and civilian versions. Students ran a store called the Hornet’s Nest in partnership with the city. And the late evening hours on Saturdays brought in farmers from the area—who expected their usual parking spot—as a place to gather and a part of what kept the economy going, Schuelke said.

Ralph Webster, who ran the birthday show on KWAD radio out of Wadena, had his office in Henning. He also traveled across the country with a band and owned a resort on Leaf Lake among many other leadership roles and interests.

A name many on the tour knew was Ida Saetre, who long worked as a social worker in the Henning and Wadena areas. She took in 150 children over the years as they awaited foster care or adoption, along with five children of her own. She was nominated for and won Minnesota Mother of the Year in 1965.

The boy’s basketball team garnered their reputation as the Giant Norsemen, including brothers Dick and Bob Peterson, in the 1965-66 state tournament. Most recently, the team won the state championship in 2018-19.

Henning History Tour During the 2021 Henning festival, a third walking tour of the downtown area was lead by the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

As one of the many historic places in town, the Landmark Center started as a family residence in 1914 along with a medical practice for doctors A.J. Lewis, Charles Lewis, Jay Kevern and Jon Wigert. A.J. even thought the practice could become a hospital.


Martha Lewis-Hunstiger remembers her grandparents, A.J. and Clara Lewis, as “very adventurous people,” which is just how they ended up in the area. Clara put on a blindfold and placed a pin in a map—right in the Deer Creek and Henning area for their next place to live.

Lewis-Hunstiger said their family is grateful for the care of the home and what has become of it. The center is a nonprofit center for the arts and community, and is being considered for the list of National Register of Historic Places.

You can learn more about the history of Henning by contacting the Historical Society. The society also has upcoming history walking tours in Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids and Battle Lake.

The Henning city festival is continuing July 9-11. The festival events include:

Friday, July 9

4-6 p.m. Trinity Center Christmas in July with quilts, door prizes, Christmas cookies, refreshments and entertainment

5-10 p.m. Food Stand

6 p.m. Kiddie Parade, Main Parade

7:30 p.m. Festival Queen and Little Miss Coronation


Saturday, July 10

7 a.m. 5K Registration at the Henning Fairgrounds; $25 for 5K and $15 for 1 mile walk/run

8 a.m. 5K starts

8 a.m. Softball Tournament Begins

8-11 a.m. Lions Breakfast at the Food Stand

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Trinity Center Christmas in July

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Craft & Flea Market

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Leaf Lake Association 50/50 Raffle

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Church Food Stand


11 a.m. Water Wars

Noon-4 p.m. Inflatable Rides

1 p.m. Kids Bean Bag Tournament

2 p.m. Adult Bean Bag Tournament

2 p.m. Henning Rod and Gun Club Beer Wagon Opens

4 p.m. Softball Tournament Championship Game

6 p.m. Demo Derby

9:30 p.m. Henning Rod and Gun Club Beer Wagon and Music


10 p.m. Fireworks

Sunday, July 11

8-11 a.m. Lions Breakfast at Amundson Park

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Trinity Center Christmas in July

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Craft and Flea Market

11 a.m. Disc Golf Tournament

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lions Lunch at Amundson Park

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Car Show at Amundson Park

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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