There is a lot to celebrate in Harmony this weekend, July 2-4. The city is celebrating the their 125th Anniversary (1895-2020) and is hosting the town’s 140th Fourth of July celebration, and you are invited to join in the festivities.
In 1954, Greenfield Prairie, a bustling Norwegian village, was located a short distance south of the present-day Harmony. Business owners heard talk that the railroad was coming through north of their town, so they packed up and moved north closer to the railroad. The Caledonia, Mississippi, and Western Railway arrived in 1879.
Harmony Township was organized on May 11, 1858, and Harmony incorporated on October 14, 1895.
How the town got its name is a fun story as told by author Millicent Yates Johnson. After businesses moved from Greenfield Village north to the present location of the town’s downtown business district, in anticipation of the arrival of the railroad, a group of citizens met in 1872 to discuss naming the new town. As the meeting temperature heated up, one gentleman stood and loudly proclaimed, “Let’s have harmony!”
“Looking back over Harmony’s history, one thing is evident. Harmony is able to adapt and change to order to move forward and prosper,” touted Melissa Vander Plas, Executive Director, Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Harmony Area Historical Society will host an open house at the McMichael Grain Elevator and will be open on Saturday and Sunday, July 3 and 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The elevator is located at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 44 and Minnesota State Highway 139.
During the mid-1970s, Amish from Wayne County, Ohio, looking for land to create a new Amish community and, liking what they saw, settled in the Harmony area. Visitors on the 4th of July weekend can take guided tours through Harmony’s Amish Country on Friday and Saturday.
Tours at Niagara Cave are available all three days during the weekend celebration. Niagara Cave is a geology wonder, allowing visitors the opportunity to explore the area’s karst topography – sinkholes, springs, vanishing streams, bluffs, and cave systems.
The trains stopped coming, and the rail line was removed in 1977. However, city leaders saw the importance of tourism as an economic asset, and in 1997, the empty rail beds became a walking and biking trail, Harmony-Preston Valley Trail.
Minnesota’s tourism office proudly boasts Harmony as having the Biggest 4th of July Celebration in Southeast Minnesota.
“Harmony is becoming a destination for the 4th of July celebration. We have a lot of family-friendly events. In addition, we have added a whole afternoon of kids’ activities to make it extra special. Sunday’s traditional favorites include the pedal pull, Grand Parade at 3 p.m., the Busta Band featuring Mollie B starts after the parade at 4 p.m. The fireworks display begins at dusk, the grand finale to the weekend,” shared Vander Plas.
The 2021 Grand Marshals are Stuart and Marian Morem. The couple are owners of Morem Electric, which celebrated 75 years in business last year.
Marilyn Stevens, the six-year-old daughter of Samantha and James Stevens, is the designer of this year’s kids’ button. This year organizers selected the event’s logo for the 4th of July celebration’s adult button. The button promotes the town’s 125 years of history.
On the city’s Fourth of July Facebook page, followers were asked to share their favorite memory of a 4th of July Celebration in Harmony. First, Maria Spearbecker remarked, “Mark Haugerud and his family hosting the toad races by the Sugar Plum House, then getting ice cream afterward.” Next, Becky Jean Jones explained, “My son getting his face painted.” Finally, Cindy Sween Ofstedal mentioned, “The pancake breakfast at the fire hall.”
The toad race is a real event. On Saturday at 10:30 a.m., take your toad to the Village Green for the annual toad races sponsored by JEM Theatre.
Music is a highlight of the weekend’s festivities. On Friday night Estelle’s is featuring Luke Smith live on their new patio at 5 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to midnight Karaoke Joe will be in the conservation Club Beer Tent. On Saturday, July 3, at 3 p.m., attendees will find Matt and Brenda Stier at Harmony Spirits and from 5-8 p.m. Jeff Renartz is live on Estelle’s patio, and from 8 p.m. to midnight, Troubleshooter will take the stage at Conservation Club Beer tent. The music continues Sunday. At 10 a.m. Brad Boice Gospel Church Service in Selvig Park, 12-2:30 p.m. Don Scott blues live at Harmony Spirits, and from 4-7 p.m. the Jim Busta Band featuring Mollie B at Selvig Park.
For a complete list of events, locations, and times visit the chamber’s website, Explore Harmony, www.exploreharmony.com, or Facebook page.
To learn more about the history of Harmony, check out the timeline posted outside the visitor center and browse the historic signs found throughout downtown Harmony. Purchase the book, Let’s Have Harmony – A Centennial History by Millicent Yates Johnson, available at the visitor center.