Finding Minnesota: How The City Of Buffalo Got Its Name

BUFFALO, Minn. (WCCO) — The summer season is full of weekend festivals here in Minnesota, including one that’s eight days long and just began this Sunday.

It’s called “Buffalo Days” and it goes until next Sunday.

This week in Finding Minnesota, we traveled to Wright County to get a preview and to find out how the city of Buffalo got its name.

As it turns out, it came from the bottom of a lake.

There’s no mistaking where you are when you exit off Highway 55, about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The signs are everywhere — statues, actually — of buffalo.

But if you really want to know where Buffalo, Minn. got its name, you’d have look at Buffalo Lake.

Brad Nauman, the mayor of Buffalo, gave a little history of the town.

“It is not something we publicize, it is not something we run from,” he said. “It is what it is. We are named after a fish. We are named after a carp that they used to catch quite a few of in the local lake.”

Yep, Buffalo is named after a fish, and not just any fish — a bottom feeder that some folks don’t consider very good to eat.

But back when settlers first came to this part of Wright County in the late 1850s, buffalo fish were plentiful in the lake.

“Depending on who you talk to some might say it is an ugly fish because it is the carp family, but I think it’s very nice looking,” laughed Sally Custer, the president of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.

Each June, the Chamber of Commerce hosts “Buffalo Days,” a festival that bolsters community pride.

With a parade, fireworks, carnival and live music, it’s kind of a big deal.

“People schedule weddings, they schedule vacations around Buffalo Days. You don’t get married the night of the Buffalo Days parade because nobody will come to your wedding,” Nauman said.

Custer agreed, adding it’s especially important these days.

“I think especially in this economy right now, people need to go out and have fun. This event, for the most part, is free and there’s a ton of things they can go do,” she said.

That includes checking out a statue, downtown, that brings it all together. It’s part fish and part buffalo — and quite memorable.

The Buffalo Chamber of Commerce is also looking into the possibility of placing buffalo fish statues around town.

The Buffalo Days festival kicked off Sunday and runs through next Sunday.

For the schedule of events for Buffalo Days, click here.

More from Angela Davis
  • Gale Raisanen

    Check out how Buffalo got its name…..and, if you haven’t staked out your space for the parade next Saturday, you better get on the ball (just kidding–kinda) !!

  • martin

    Buffalo MN is a beautiful area. Check it out!

  • Roland Sigurdson

    Fact Check: The bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo species (Genus Ictiobus sp.) are both members of the Sucker Famiily (Catostomidae) and are not carp. Carp are in the Minnow Family (Cypinidae) and were introduced to North America. Buffalo is a native fish to our state.
    Buffalo, the fish, is extremely good to eat if properly prepared. In point of fact, the fish from Buffalo Lake were harvested by commercial fisherman and shipped to some of the finer restaurants in New York and Chicago back in the early 1900’s where you had to pay ‘good money’ to get the opportunity to eat these fish.
    Be sure to visit the Buffalo Days Kids Fishing Klinic next Saturday at Sturgis Park in downtown Buffalo.

  • Missy

    How did it get the name buffalo fish?

    • K.

      Did you see its face on the news clip? Kinda looks like a buffalo.

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