One tank trips: Granite Falls, home of Western Fest and local hero Tanner Aus

This is also where you'll find the world's oldest rock, which geologist say is 3.8 billion years old.

Susie Jones
June 20, 2019 - 1:06 pm

Photo Courtesy of Western Fest


All this summer, we are exploring places in Minnesota that you can get to on one tank of gas.  This week, WCCO's Susie Jones takes us to Granite Falls Minnesota, where folks are celebrating the 31st annual Western Fest -- which features the Stampede Rodeo and hometown hero Tanner Aus.

RELATED: See all of WCCO's "One Tank Trip" features.  

He is a bare back rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.  He was born and raised in Granite Falls where his parents taught him how to ride.  "My mom and dad competed in the rodeo and we traveled around the country and state, and whenever I had the chance I would enter the mutton busting, so I actually got started riding sheep," Tanner Aus told WCCO's Susie Jones.

His dad went on to compete nationally until 1998, and at that time, he was ready to start participating in the youth rodeos around the state.  His sisters also started to ride as well.

"We spent our summers as a family traveling the state, and competing together. It was a great way to spend our time," said Tanner.

Photo Courtesy of Western Fest

Now after 20 years, he and his sisters are still competing in rodeos all over the state and country.  Western Fest weekend has always been very special to him.  It was the first professional rodeo that he was able to ride a bucking horse.  "I was in high school, and I got to get on in front of the hometown crowd, and to this day that's still one of the highlights of my entire career," said Tanner.  "It's probably the most nervous I get is riding in Granite Falls."

He recalls a time when he was a kid, showing up to Western Fest early in the week and taking in the sights and sounds of the livestock being brought in.  He'd think about what it might be like one day to ride in the rodeo himself.  That sentimental feeling is still there.

"Every time I show up there now, I still get that same feeling."

The rodeo attracts thousands of spectators every year, but there is more to the town.

Photo Courtesy of Western Fest

Established in 1879, Granite Falls is located about two hours west of the Twin Cities with about 2,700 people living there.  

It's the Hometown of Andrew Volstead, a name you may not immediately recognize.  Vostead authored one of the most infamous pieces of legislation in U.S. history.  "Andrew Volstead was the author of the prohibition bill which was passed 100 years ago," said Ashley Hanson, with the Department of Public Transformation and the YES! House in Granite Falls .  The Volstead Act became the amendment that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic liquors.

"The YES! House "is an artist led non-profit, which uses the arts to help rural communities connect across difference, revitalize their rural spaces and create new narratives across the United States," said Hanson.

The Minnesota River is also a vital part of the city.  "We have the Minnesota River Run, which is an opportunity for folks to put in, just below our dam here with kayaks and canoes and you can paddle a nice long stretch down the river," Hanson said.

Lifelong resident Mark Sannerud and daughter Lydia also shared some of their favorite places in town. “Carl’s bakery was voted one of the sweetest bakeries in the United States," Lydia said.

Other interesting facts:

  • You'll find the world's oldest rock, which geologist say is 3.8 billion years old.
  • It was once home to the Riverside Sanitarium which opened January 1, 1917, with room for 40 bed patients. Its maximum official capacity was only 48 patients, but it once housed 65.
  • Granite Falls’ historic footbridge was built in 1935 under license from the Roebling Company—the firm famous for designing the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • The area is home to Prairie's Edge Resort and Casino, and Project Turnabout, a facility for people struggling with addiction.

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