With Agate Days, Moose Lake polishes image of the state gem

Jessica Sander and Jen Majkrzak picking agates.
Sisters Jessica Sander and Jen Majkrzak look for agates in a Carlton County gravel pit. Their dad was an avid agate collector whose home is filled with vases, and even a lamp, of agates. He took Majkrzak, 32, agate-picking throughout her childhood. Now Majkrzak is passing the tradition down to her younger sister and son.
Megan Burks | MPR News

An estimated 3,000 people descended on Moose Lake over the weekend to celebrate the 50th annual Agate Days Festival.

The festival got its start in a conversation over coffee between Floyd Clark, an accountant, and Walt Lower Jr., owner of Moose Lake's movie theater. Clark was an agate hunter and Lower was a businessman who needed to attract customers to his theater.

They started with some displays in a small tent in the street near the theater. Each year, Lower recalled, they got a bigger tent. And today, instead of a tent, they use the hockey arena down the road.

A highlight of the festival nowadays is the Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede. Organizers dump two truckloads of gravel, 400 pounds of agates and $400 in coins down the middle of Elm Avenue, then let families and pickers dig.

Organizer Craig Prudhomme said it was "perhaps unfortunate" that "years ago, someone got the idea to call it a stampede."

"I would prefer to call it the Moose Lake Walk Casually and Safely," he said. "But that doesn't have the same pizazz."

Correction (July 16, 2019): Jen Majkrzak’s name was misspelled in a photo caption in an earlier version of this story.

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