Last night Ellen and I, along with about 300 area residents, attended the Defeat of Jesse James Days ‘Joseph Lee Heywood Award Banquet’. The event was held at the Northfield American Legion where we were able to enjoy good food and good conversation. Defeat of Jesse James Days is one of the largest community events in Minnesota. With good weather, well over 100,000 people will visit Northfield during the event. We have everything from tractor pulls and classic car shows, to juried arts shows, to rodeos over the long weekend.

We were gathered last night to honor Gene Finger, this year’s recipient of the Joseph Lee Heywood Award, shown on the right in this photo along with long time Northfield resident Helen Albers.

The award is presented annually to someone that has worked hard to make our community and society better. Through his years of dedicated service in the Sertoma Club, Defeat of Jesse James Days committee work, and many other volunteer functions, Gene has worked to make Northfield a great place to live and raise a family. The community came out in force to honor Gene.

We were greeted at the door by the Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD) royalty, including Queen Sarah Larscheid. These young women will represent Northfield at various neighboring town festivals during the next year.

The DJJD junior royalty was also at the dinner, dressed appropriately and doing a great job greeting people.

Fred Rogers, Vice President and Treasure at Carleton College gave a brief history of Joseph Lee Heywood. While many of us long time Northfield residents know that Heywood protected the funds of the First National Bank with his life when the James Gang came to rob it, I always learn something new from historical talks. Fred Rogers told us that 459 banks across Canada and the US contributed $12,600 to the widow of Heywood. There was no Federal Deposit Corporation Insurance for bank funds at the time….when robbers stole from a bank the money was forever lost. The banks across the land honored Heywood’s heroic act at protecting the funds of the community by making this contribution to his widow. In today’s dollars, that would be the equivalent of slightly more than $1.5 million.

It was fun to gather with other community members and honor Gene Finger for his excellent community service. There are lots of other DJJD activities planned for the rest of the week….attend some of them if you can.