On this date in 1967, the town of Alexander in McKenzie County was celebrating Old Settler’s Day. It originated in 1946 as a community picnic to honor residents of more than 40 years. Ten “Range Riders” were honored in that first year. The yearly celebration traditionally honors a longtime resident or couple in the Alexander area or McKenzie County. The 1956 Old Settler’s Day celebrated Alexander’s golden jubilee. More than 410 old timers that year wore ribbons signifying the number of years they’d been in McKenzie County.
Governor Art Link and his wife, Grace, were the Old Settler’s Day honorees in 1988. He was North Dakota’s governor from 1973 to 1981. “This is a big day for us, and it’s great to be back,” Link told a Bismarck Tribune correspondent. His parents, John and Anna Link, were honored at Old Settler’s Day in 1960. They homesteaded on Antelope Creek near Alexander in 1907.
Today, Old Settler’s Day stretches over three days, coinciding with the first Saturday in September. Consequently, it can overlap with Labor Day weekend, since Labor Day is the first Monday of September. It was postponed only once, due to rain in 1950, but never again, even in snow in 1961.
The event traditionally includes a beef barbecue and parade. Hundreds, even thousands of people have attended. The event is a staple of the social season in McKenzie County, even as the Bakken oil boom brought more residents, and increased traffic led to reconstructing Alexander’s main drag, which had city leaders wondering if the event could proceed. But workers were able to keep the route open and Old Settler’s Day carried on.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
The Bismarck Tribune. 1988, Sept. 6. B1.