By Kathy Kullberg
You might be surprised by some Minneapolis Star headlines in May 1936. The stories enticed every child under age 15 and left many dreaming of cowboys and cowgirls for weeks to come.
Rodeo to Open in City June 13.
Texas Rangers Rodeo — Man-Hating Bronchos — Steers — Calves.
General Admission Tickets 40 Cents to Box Seats for $1.10.
June 13 to June 21, Minneapolis Arena.
The famous traveling Texas Rangers Rodeo appeared at the Minneapolis Ice Arena, which was located at Dupont Avenue and 29th Street, the winter home of the Ice Stars and Ice Follies.
"Boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15 will have their share of fun Saturday when they turn cowboy and cowgirl in the Texas Rangers Rodeo parade. Not only will they get a thrill from being a part of the parade, but every boy and girl entered in the parade contest will receive a prize. The STAR Tribune will award prizes to the best dressed boys and girls in the parade. In addition, each child receives free admission to the opening matinee."
A chance to be an urban cowboy/cowgirl was not an everyday experience in Minneapolis. Children were encouraged to create and don their best Western outfit and appear downtown on June 13. The parade started at the downtown post office and culminated at Parade Stadium. Noteworthy Tribune columnist and radio personality, Cedric Adams, was highlighted as one of the judges for the costume contest.
For the first-time event, a large 30-by-50 foot tent was erected in the stable yards of the riding academy at 2833 Dupont Avenue South, just north of the railroad tracks and the Minneapolis Ice Arena. The arena had been built in 1924 at 2900 Dupont (the present-day site of the Cub Foods building). From 1924 to 1966, the Arena was the home of the Minneapolis Millers ice hockey team (the predecessor of the Minnesota North Stars) and was the birthplace of the Minneapolis Ice Follies, a figure skating extravaganza put on by Eddie and Roy Shipstad and Oscar Johnson. World-famous figure skater Sonja Henie appeared at the Arena in the winter of 1936 to packed performances.
Ice skating shows, ice hockey and public ice skating were held in the Arena from October to April. Then the ice would be removed and public roller skating and weekly dancing would take over the floor. It was reported that a 17-piece orchestra often played, and the music was broadcast over WCCO. A Wurlitzer pipe organ also provided music for skating in both the winter and summer.
In the summer of 1936, for the first time, the ice cold arena turned into a dusty mecca for the annual Minneapolis Horse Show. Horse show jumpers and hunters and flashy fi five-gaited horses all shared the same space for the first time with Western cowboys and wild West bronchos. Not only for children but all city dwellers. It was an event to be remembered for a lifetime. Legendary Cowboy movie star Buck Owens and his horse, Goldie, were a huge attraction. Steer roping, trick riding, rope trickster, Cy Compton, and one of the last of the Texas Rangers, Milt Hinkle, who was a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, kept the audiences amazed.
The daughters of Minneapolis Millers and Arena manager Lyle Wright were as excited as any two girls could be. Lyle Zealand Wright was the manager for the Millers hockey team while at the arena from 1928 to 1931. Per his obituary in 1963, Wright moved to Chicago for a brief period in the early 1930s to manage the Chicago Black Hawks, but then returned to Minneapolis and focused on the hometown team. After his death, he was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Wright’s daughter, Nanette, who passed away in March 2020 at age 92, grew up on the ice with her father as the president of the Arena. he skated for the Ice Follies and taught ice skating. Both she and her siblings actively participated in the 1936 Texas Rangers Rodeo parade.
The Minneapolis Ice Arena was sold and torn down in 1966. Four decades of local fun and inexpensive entertainment were lost to the Uptown district with the demise of the Arena. A modern facility with plenty of parking for hockey fans had been built in Bloomington and opened in 1967 for the team now called the Minnesota North Stars. The Met Center was completed in 1967, just to the north of the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium and could seat 15,000.
Almost the entire site at 2900 Dupont from the Buzza building to Hennepin and south of the railroad corridor was razed from 1965 to 1967 to make way for the new Lagoon Avenue bypass, designed to minimize traffic congestion at Lake and Hennepin. Local public ice skating is now relegated to winter days on Lake of the Isles. Rodeos are now found only in the outskirts of the cities. Rodeo parades are only a memory, or found in dreams, of those who were lucky enough to find adventure at the Arena long ago in 1936.
Kathy Kullberg is a longtime Wedge resident and historian.