OGEMA, Minn. — It was a colorful group that got together in tiny Ogema, Minn., last weekend.
And not just because of their personalities: Hundreds came from across the country for a big family reunion, and they wore color-coded T-shirts, the better to sort each other out.
There were Teikens and Rellers and Hobans, aplenty, as well as Jaskens, St. Germain-Lohmans, McArthurs and Trujillos, among others.
They came in a sea of colorful T-shirts: Pink, red, orange, green, yellow, light blue, dark blue, purple and others.
And all were descended from Henry Teiken and Anna Jasken, whose families both moved to Ogema the same day: March 10, 1910. The Teikens came from Glencoe and the Jaskens came from Aitkin, according to Cleo Starkey, one of the organizers of the big reunion, which is held every five years.
More than 500 people showed up for this reunion in Ogema, population 214.
“We take over the town,” Starkey said with a laugh.
They say an army travels on its stomach, and the army in Ogema wouldn’t have gotten far without Shirley Kjolberg.
“She does all the cooking,” Starkey said. “She called for volunteers Friday morning, ‘bring your favorite knife to cut up potato salad,’” Starkey added.
Reunion organizers spent $3,000 on food, but that didn’t include any of those artificially flavored store-bought cookies. Kjolberg and her helpers made 800 chocolate chip, monster and peanut butter cookies from scratch.
“There was a lot of cookie dough, I had a big ol’ washtub full — it looked like one of those old-fashioned baby tubs,” Kjolberg said with a laugh. One woman scooped so much dough onto baking sheets that she got a blister. Call it a casualty of war.
“I had a lot of good helpers, a lot of good dishwashers,” Kjolberg said. “Thank God for big families that pitch in.”
This reunion had something for everyone: There was a parade down the main street of Ogema, with some 30 entries, including antique tractors and restored cars, and a restored grain wagon painted with the colors and name of the family tree. And there was a day in the park, with bouncy houses for the kids, bean bag games, and a rock-climbing tower courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard.
The family's traditional auction was Saturday afternoon, July 10, with preserved goods to specialty garlic cloves to handmade quilts, braided rugs, bottles of wine, and all sorts of memorabilia and other items — mostly grown, made, created and otherwise provided by by family members.
The good-natured auction raised over $10,000, which will pay for the next reunion in five years, Starkey said. The last auction five years ago raised over $6,000 to pay for this event. “The auction is always fun,” Starkey said.
The two surviving siblings, out of the 15 kids born to Henry and Anna Teiken, stayed late Saturday to enjoy the dance at Ogema's community center: Elaine Hoban was born in 1935 and Margaret McArthur was born in 1939.
“Both were still at the dance when I left,” Starkey said. “They had a wonderful time — everyone caters to them, they are wonderful aunts.”
An energetic Jamie Weigel, who also helped organize the reunion, was happy to see such a good turnout. “We had one relative that came from 2,000 miles away — and they drove,” she said. Relatives came from Washington, Maryland, Colorado, California, New Mexico, and all over Minnesota, including a lot of family members that live in Becker County, Minn.
Wayne Reller, who loves family genealogy and history, and has been involved in the reunion since the beginning, said he’s happy to see everyone keep coming together.
“It used to be easy to put this thing together,” he said. Now the numbers are growing, more young ones are coming along, and the logistics are a little more challenging. Still, he said it’s well worth it. “We’re very proud of the family,” he said.