When Lamb was King
The men who made Lakefield the “Lamb Capital of Minnesota” for a few glorious years in the middle of the last century may be gone, but one man who remains is making certain people never forget.
Mike Kirchmeier, director of the Jackson County Historical Society, has conducted extensive research on and assembled various pieces of memorabilia related to the once-booming sheep industry in and around the central Jackson County berg of Lakefield.
Though only a handful of Lakefield area farmers today raise sheep, it wasn’t that long ago, Kirchmeier says, when — in Lakefield, anyway — lamb was king.
Lamb Day is born
The primary promoters of the lamb industry in the Lakefield area back in the mid-1950s were the Thornbergs, Kirchmeier said.
“Mr. Thornberg was really the impetus behind the sheep industry here,” Kirchmeier said. “There were huge amounts of lamb being shipped out of here every year — most through Thornberg.
“Thornberg really encouraged people to raise lambs here,” Kirchmeier said. “One of the ways in which he did this was to give out groups of lambs to people to raise and then bring back to show.”
Another way was through the creation in 1953 of a citywide celebration of lamb — a community festival Thornberg appropriately dubbed, “Lamb Day.”
“The primary reason a Lamb Day celebration was started here was to recognize and promote the lamb industry,” Kirchmeier said. “At that time, it was a predominant industry for Lakefield, as well as the area around Lakefield. The first Lamb Day celebration was to take place in the summer of 1953.”
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