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June 13: Devils Lake Macaroni Festival

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What do you first think about when you think about the word "macaroni"?

Many likely think about macaroni and cheese. Others, maybe older, might think of Yankee Doodle riding on a pony, who, for some reason, stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.

When North Dakota wheat farmers think of macaroni, they think of pasta from semolina flour made from their abundant durum wheat.

The heart of durum wheat country in the state has been in a 90-mile radius around Devils Lake, which annually produced about 90% of the U.S. total. The land in this “Durum Triangle” is higher than the rest of the surrounding farmland, making outdoor temperatures about five degrees cooler – perfect for durum. From durum wheat kernels comes macaroni, egg noodles, and spaghetti.

Back in 1955, Devils Lake celebrated ‘all things macaroni’ at its Macaroni Festival, and Monday, June 13, was the final day of the event.

The festival featured marching bands and colorful floats in the Macaroni Parade. There were also kiddie rides and golf and baseball tournaments.

Devils Lake also publicized its “Big Eating Contests,” one of which involved 11 North Dakota mayors trying to eat an equally measured “platter of spaghetti” in the fastest time. Enderlin’s Doris Smith, the state’s only woman mayor, out-ate the other mayors, winning in slightly less than two minutes.

June 13 was also the day of a free spaghetti dinner. The city had brought in the celebrated chef of the Omaha Athletic Club, Rinaldo Sibilia, who cooked up enough spaghetti for 7,000 servings. She stirred up 240 gallons of sauce to cover almost one-point-five million feet of spaghetti. That’s almost 260 miles worth of spaghetti!

The Macaroni Festival was topped-off with a “Mrs. Macaroni Contest.” The winner was Mrs. Janet Eggl of Cando – the wife of a durum wheat farmer and the mother of three sons.

Thus ended the 1955 Macaroni Festival. Started in 1950 as “Macaroni Day,” Devils Lake continued to host the festival into the decade.

As for “Mrs. Macaroni,” Janet and husband Fred not only worked side by side as farmers, but they also built and operated The Sportsman’s Motel, and Cando’s Durum House supper club.

Dakota Datebook by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, retired MSUM History Professor


  • “Celebrate In Devils Lake, June 11, 12 & 13, Macaroni Festival,” Walsh County Press [Park River, ND], June 9, 1955, p. 6.
  • Sean McCollum, “Yankee Doodle: The Story Behind the Song,” September 17, 2019, kennedy-center.org, accessed May 13, 2024, (the “macaroni does not refer to a pasta noodle. It was a term for dressing so fancy that a person looked silly.”)
  • “The Best Spaghetti Via North Dakota,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 3, 1949, p. 6.
  • “Other Editors; Bigger Macaroni Days, Devils Lake Journal,” Bismarck Tribune, August 15, 1950, p. 4.
  • “She’s Boss at Table—Council or Dinner,” Minneapolis Tribune, June 15, 1955, p. 18.
  • “275 Miles Of Spaghetti,” Tampa Bay Times, June 10, 1955, p. 1; “Free Spaghetti,” Miami Herald, June 11, 1955, p. 5.; “So Much Spaghetti,” Palm Beach Post, June 10, 1955, p. 19.
  • “Durum Triangle Plans Festival,” Bismarck Tribune, June 10, 1955, p. 9.
  • “Funeral Pending For Retired Chef; Rinaldo Sibilia,” Omaha [NE] World-Herald, April 15, 1976, p. 48.
  • “Mrs. Macaroni,” Mandan Daily Pioneer, June 14, 1955, p. 12.
  • “Macaroni Queen; Mrs. Janet Eggl,” Townsend [MT] Star, July 28, 1955, p. A7.
  • “Fred W. Eggl, Cando, N.D.,” (obit), Greenville [SC] News, September 2, 1992, p. C4; “State Deaths, Cando, Fred Eggl, 63,” Bismarck Tribune, August 28, 1992, p. 11; Find A Grave Index, Ancestry.com, “Fred W. Eggl,” accessed May 13, 2024.
  • “Janet Marie Eggl,” (obituary), Dunnigan-Dix Funeral Home of Cando, dunnigandix.com/obituaries, 2019.
  • “Devils Lake Crowns ’53 Macaroni Queen,” Bismarck Tribune, October 20, 1953, p. 11.
  • Facebook message, Michelle (Holien) Swanson, May 14, 2024.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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