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Finding Minnesota: Gold Rush Days

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ORONOCO, Minn. (WCCO) — Collecting antiques continues to be a popular pasttime, not just here in Minnesota, but nationwide. Later this month, hundreds of antique vendors from around the country will convene at one place in southern Minnesota to trade treasures at Gold Rush Days, one of the largest antique shows and flea markets in the Midwest.

There’s something charming about things that represent the past. And that warm and fuzzy feeling is what makes antiques so popular.

“Don’t you kinda want to remember the what grandma did or what mom did? It’s just a part of you that no matter how fast life goes, at some point you want to say, ‘Whoa, I just want to enjoy my life a little bit,'” said Carol Olson, organizer of Gold Rush Days.

For almost 40 years now, downtown Oronoco, Minn. has been the place to be if you are on the hunt for antiques. Each summer, on the third weekend in August, Gold Rush Days takes over.

“This is where it all started,” Olson said.

Back in 1972, the owners of an antique shop, the Berg family, invited about 40 of their friends to set up a flea market across the street from their store. Today, more than 400 vendors from across the country come to town to do the same.

“Literally the whole town, the whole town, there isn’t a nook or cranny that isn’t filled, either with parking or vendors,” Olson said.

Not that many people know this, but gold was actually discovered in the bed of the Zumbro River near Oronoco. It happened way back in 1858.

The gold rush was short lived though. A dam kept giving way causing the river to flood and wash away the tools of those searching for gold.

“It really got to be expensive for these gold miners to do that and they ran out of money and they never hit the big vein, they would just the nuggets. At some point they said no more,” Olson said.

The gold rush became a town legend. There’s a nugget in the Oronoco history center and a historical marker in a city park. And it inspired the name of the antique show, that so many have now come to look forward to each summer.

The Downtown Oronoco Gold Rush Days kicks off on Friday, Aug. 19 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 21. This year, a writer and photographer from Better Homes and Garden will be at the event. For more information, click here.

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