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On the road again

What does a 1909 REO, geocaching and a snoose box hunt all have in common? It is the annual Flekkefest celebration in Elbow Lake.       This year, a 1909 REO touring car will be taken out of its resting place at the Grant County Museum to take part in this year’s 33rd annual parade. It has been many years since the car made an appearance in a parade, and the last time was years ago when it was hauled through a parade on a trailer. Most of the population in Elbow Lake probably doesn’t remember the last time they saw this car driving down the street.        “You have to have eaten your Wheaties to crank start this thing,” said Carroll Mau, a retired school bus mechanic for 32 years.        Mau and Mert Shuck recently restored the engine after a connecting rod broke and bent the crankshaft. The red/black, wood framed vintage car was not an easy fix. They had no repair manual for the two-cylinder, right-sided steering automobile. The men also had to replace the original leaking water lines. They laugh as they talk about how a five-gallon water jug traveled along the parade route with them to replenish the coolant.        The engine is not located under the hood like most automobiles today. That space is reserved for the fuel tank, radiator and water reservoir. The 22-horsepower engine sits sideways under the front seat floorboards. The transmission has two forward speeds and a reverse. The REO uses a chain drive from the transmission to the rear axle.    Shuck, founder of Unique Auto Body, took it for a test drive at 30 miles per hour and the wooden spoke wheels held up under the pressure.     The REO was named after its designer, Ransom Eli Olds, for whom the Oldsmobile was named. He left Oldsmobile in January, 1904, and incorporated the REO Motor Car Company of Lansing, MI. The last automobiles were produced in 1936 and truck production of the company was sold in 1957.    The 1909 REO has a unique history to the area. As the story goes, in the 1930’s, George Shervey was sent to collect a debt for a farm machinery business in Barrett. The only thing George could find on the farm were scattered parts to a 1909 REO. George agreed to pay off the $35 debt himself and began to restore his “new toy.”      George’s restored toy is an eye-catcher for parade goers. The oil lantern running lights and the pressurized gas headlights are two of its artistic features. The fancy REO nameplate in front adds to its stylish design. When purchased new, the touring car sold for approximately $1,000. The appraisal value today is between $15,000 and $20,000.    In 1962, the famed touring car had the honor of transporting Minnesota Governor Elmer Anderson to a dedication of an 11 mile stretch of Interstate 94 near Fergus Falls.    This year’s Flekkefest event will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grant County Museum, home of the REO. Visitors can view the museum’s oldest ox cart in Minnesota and tour the Veteran’s Memorial wing of the building.     Flekkefest is coming to Elbow Lake on Aug. 6, 7 and 8. Like all celebrations, it will have its share of good food, good deals and good entertainment. It also has some unique events such as geocaching and a snoose box hunt. For more details on the happenings in Elbow Lake, visit

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