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Aneta Turkey Barbecue


Every town in North Dakota has a yearly celebration it holds dear. Fargo has its street fair. Arnegard has the Fourth of July. Mountain has the Deuce of August. Valley City has its hill climb. Watford City has a rib fest. Fort Ransom has Sodbuster Days. Robinson has Center Fest. 

And Aneta, North Dakota, has an annual turkey barbecue and festival, celebrated on the third weekend of June, usually around this time, though not this year, thanks to the pandemic.

The celebration has its roots in the Aneta Booster Club, which dates to 1903. The organization began as a way to promote Aneta and its community spirit. In its early years the club supported summer baseball and horse racing and helped put on the Nelson County Fair, which was first held in Aneta over the Fourth of July in 1913. A summer festival began in the 1920s. And the turkey barbecue began in 1961, after a picnic to thank workers who built Aneta’s elevator. The Aneta Civic Club and American Legion Auxiliary helped supply the turkey barbecue with potato salad—“an important part” of the event, according to local history. The Aneta Pavilion served as the venue for the festival’s dance.

The event has remained a popular one. Family and old friends reunite every year at the barbecue. More than 1,600 people were served in 2019. But 2018 was even more impressive, as more than 2,000 people attended the barbecue, and three hundred and twelve turkeys were roasted over the long pit of cinder blocks loaded with charcoal briquettes. Pretty impressive for a town with a population of only 200 or so.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Grand Forks Herald:
Aneta Turkey Barbecue and Summer Festival Facebook page
Nelson County History, Volume 2, 1985. Associated Printers, Larimore-Grafton-Grand Forks, ND

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