Youth-centered organization’s roots date back to the 1950s.
The annual Hudson Booster Days celebration takes on many colors, shapes and sounds. Years ago, the fireworks show (one of the most loved events) ended not with a traditional grand finale, but rather a firework shown in the shape of an American flag. “The flag in the sky meant the end of Booster Days,” says Booster Days committee member John Herick.
Herick also recalls the homemade heavy cannons and the truckloads of gravel that were needed to fire off the fireworks. “When the shells went off, the whole dike shook,” says Herink. Now, fireworks are ignited electronically—and even more has changed since COVID-19.
In 2020, the celebration was cancelled in its entirety due to COVID; in 2021, road construction halted its parade. Typically, Booster Days includes a carnival, live music, bingo, beer, hot-dog-eating contests, a tractor pull, fishing contest, bags tournament and fireworks, sponsored by the City of Hudson.
Its beginnings were less than what it is now. Hudson Boosters, originally incorporated as the SouthSide Boosters, has been going strong since July 16, 1954. However, knowing what happened 68 years ago is complicated. “If you hang around long enough, you became the historian,” says past Hudson Boosters president Randy Lau.
Lau’s research centers around an old bag full of Boosters memorabilia passed down from committee to committee. It includes a collection of Boosters buttons—the earliest of which dates back to 1952, the year the Hudson boys baseball program started and the year the city held the first Annual Hudson Picnic.
Hudson Boosters firsts, according to Lau’s timeline, include ice car races (1955), an Easter egg hunt (1958), girls’ recreation program (1960), fireworks and a tug-o-war event (1962), snowmobile races (1966), a boat parade (1967), a water ski show (1969), a parade down Main Street (1970), boys and girls T-ball program (1976), girls’ softball recreation program (1984), girls’ traveling softball program (1995) … And, in 2001, all Booster Days activities moved from the south to the north end of Lakefront Park.
“You have to give those early Boosters credit. They tried a ton of things,” says Lau. Members then and now are volunteers.
“While volunteerism has been down lately, we have a community of help in our community,” says Holly Schultz, Booster Days coordinator. “Members and non-members are volunteering, and we can use every last one of them.” Herink adds that the volunteers, like the fireworks, come in all different forms.
“Some of our volunteers come for a single event and some are there 18 hours per day. We’ve had a construction guy volunteer his crew for security, and we’ve had churches run food stands,” he says. Last year, the Hudson High School football team helped tear down and clean up.
For this year, from the sounds of it—snap, crackle and pop—everything is either on, or possibly be on, the table. At the time of writing, Schultz says summer felt so far away. Following a February Booster Days committee meeting, she confidently says, “But we’re having Booster Days.”
The driving force, as always, is the children in the community. “Kids’ involvement is why we do it,” says Schultz. Money raised at Hudson Booster Days is used to support Hudson’s youth softball, baseball and football programs.
A Grand Prize
Before Herink became a Boosters member (he joined in 1974), he remembers reading an article about a child who won a pony. “The Boosters gave away a real pony. What kid doesn’t want a pony?” says Herink.
Turns out, the pony was the grand prize, err golden egg, at a Hudson Boosters Easter Egg Hunt. And yes, you have to wonder about the parents’ reaction. Their child didn’t win a ride on pony, their child won the pony.
Herink also remembers the year, 1985 according to Lau’s timeline, world-famous softball pitcher Eddie Feigner came to town. Never heard of Feigner? Think Harlem Globetrotter in a softball uniform.
“Hudson put a team together and Feigner struck them all out, from second base,” says Herink. “He played in over 350 games a year, traveling from town to town. He had catcher, first baseman and outfielder. That’s all he’d need.”
Boat races on the St. Croix River were also popular back then. “I remember watching one of the boats flip,” says Herink.
Three-on-three basketball tournaments were so popular back then that they’re thinking about bringing them back now.
And? There’s a beer wagon that’s used at Hudson Booster Days that’s been in use for at least 50 years. “Once, I saw them open a keg, push the tap forward and then pour until the keg ran out, pitcher after pitcher after pitcher,” says Herink. “They don’t use that wagon for beer anymore, but they still use it for special events.”
Hudson Booster Days
June 30–July 4; Lakefront Park, First St., Hudson, Wis.
Facebook: Hudson Booster Days