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  • Paul Cooley


Updated: Mar 19, 2019

GERRY – A cowboy doll purchased at the Gerry Fire Department’s first rodeo 75 years ago in 1945 is returning to the fire department to be part of the 75th rodeo celebration this coming summer as a gift from Mrs. Violet Engstrom.

Mrs. Engstrom, who will 100 years old in January and is presently residing at Heritage Green Nursing Home, says she remembers that her late husband Allen bought the doll for her at that first rodeo, and she thinks he paid $3.00 for it, a big price in those days as the admission to that first event was only $1.00. Making the doll even more special is the fact that it was signed by C.W. Rogers, the clown at the first rodeo.

The doll has been kept at the Engstroms’ home in Ross Mills where they lived for all 70 years of their married life. Mr. Engstrom passed away eight years ago, and recently, Mrs. Engstrom decided that the doll should be returned to its original home at the rodeo in spite of its sentimental value to her. She says that on several occasions the fire department transported her to the hospital, and the personnel in the ambulance were very kind to her.

She asked her niece Jan Merchant to handle the details of donating the gift to the fire department Jan secured a plexiglass case for the doll, added several toy horses to surround it, and had a plaque engraved that reads: “Donated by Allen & Violet Engstrom”.

Mrs. Engstrom is very proud of the fact that until this year she had never missed enjoying the barbeque beef dinners, a record of 73 consecutive years. She made sure that we were aware that she is an avid Elvis Pressley fan as she shares a birthday anniversary with him on January 8.

She added that she and her husband liked to travel and visited every state in the country. She worked at various places in Jamestown including National Worsted Mills and Weber Knapp before retiring from Truck Lite. He worked at Art Metal and later drove bus in Jamestown.

Assistant rodeo chairman Dave Hall says the rodeo committee is very pleased to have this piece of history to add to their collection of memorabilia. The committee plans to have the doll on display for the 75th year celebration and will find a secure spot to have it on permanent display.

The 75th consecutive rodeo is scheduled for four performances, July 31 – August 3 with more than 200 pro cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation coming to Gerry to compete for $45,000 in prize money. The event will also include the traditional beef barbeque dinners, a midway with more than 20 vendors, a kids’ rodeo on Saturday, and fireworks. Additional information, including a history of the rodeo is available at the website

📷 Mrs. Violet Engstrom holds the cowboy doll she got at the first Gerry rodeo and is donating to the Gerry Fire Department. Her niece Jan Merchant looks on while assistant rodeo chairman Dave Hall accepts the doll on behalf of the department.

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