Havana native Gordy Phillips, left, unveiled this billboard honoring his grandson, Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Dallas Goedert, at Havana’s 135th anniversary celebration on Saturday. At right is Goedert’s mother, Mary Carlson.

Shriner Justin Monsen of Langford tossed candy to kids along the parade route during Havana’s 135th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

Havana 135th anniversary Parade Marshall Dallas Goedert led the parade on his unicycle on Saturday.

O’Brien Farms was one of the 45 entries in Havana’s 135-year anniversary parade on Saturday.

Kids along Havana’s parade route scrambled for these freeze pops distributed by Diversified Crop Insurance Services.

Philadelphia Eagle Dallas Goedert was in demand to sign autographs at Havana’s 135th anniversary celebration on Saturday. Dallas’ proud grandmother, Carol Goedert, looks on from the vehicle behind.

These youngsters represented Havana’s final graduating class – the Class of 1969 – in the 135th anniversary parade on Saturday. A total of 45 units participated in the parade, and 110 people attended the All-School Banquet.

These Havana softball players represented teams from 1972-2018 and beyond in the 135th anniversary parade held Saturday morning.

Havana Marks 135 Years

Havana’s population took a big jump last weekend.

The small southeast North Dakota town of about 70 people swelled to hundreds as the community celebrated its 135-year anniversary with a parade, fireworks, street dance, and all-school reunion.

A special feature was the unveiling of an 18x8-foot billboard featuring Philadelphia Eagles rookie Dallas Goedert. Goedert spent three years of his youth in Havana before moving to Britton and was the Grand Marshall of the 45-unit parade, leading the way with his family – all on unicycles.

The billboard was the brainchild of Goedert’s grandpa, lifelong Havana resident Gordy Phillips.

“I got the idea for the billboard when I saw one for Phil Hansen (former Buffalo Bills defensive end) at Oakes,” said Phillips. “We started working on it about six weeks ago.”

The sign features a photo of Goedert making one of his famous one-handed catches as a South Dakota State Jackrabbit and is printed in SDSU blue and gold. There is another picture of him in his #88 Eagles uniform. Lettering on the sign touts Goedert as the sixth generation of his family to live in Havana over the past 128 years, lists Havana as Grandpa Gordy and Bev’s home for 80 years, and celebrates Havana’s 135th year. Phillips greatgrandfather, Louis Johnson, was one of Havana’s first settlers and the first postmaster.

Phillips also planned ahead. In case Goedert should ever be traded to another NFL team, the canvas panel can be changed out for a photo in a different uniform.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Britton, but I’m so proud that Dallas lived in Havana, and I did want to toot my horn a little, too,” said Phillips. “Over the past 100 years North and South Dakota have only had about 100 football players in the NFL and now one of them is my grandson. There’s nobody prouder than Grandpa Gordy.”

Goedert was appreciative of his grandpa’s efforts and the support from the Havana community.

“Thanks to everybody, and it’s a cool honor to be here. The sign is really an awesome thing.”

It wasn’t an easy project.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation wouldn’t let Phillips put the sign in the road ditch, so Joe’s Ag in Havana gave permission to put it on their land that was still visible from the highway. But because you could read it from the highway, Phillips still had to pay the state to put the sign up.

Then there was a bit of a problem in finding the photographer who took the photo of the one-handed catch to get permission to use it on the sign. Not to mention the all-night welding to put the steel frame together.

“It started out that I was just going to use 4x4’s, but then Paul Bergh suggested that it wouldn’t cost that much more to use metal and have it made. I was just going to put the sign on one side but decided to do both so you wouldn’t have to look at a rusty backside. We had to put it five feet into the ground and used two Bobcats and had a bunch of guys helping that knew what they were doing.”

Phillips said he initially hadn’t planned to cover the sign prior to the festivities on Saturday.

“I wasn’t going to cover it, but then I thought it would be something that people would stick around to see after the parade. If it wasn’t covered they would probably just leave. And we had a great crowd.”

The all-school reunion is held every five years and this year’s event was the 12th one held with the 82-year-old Phillips serving as master of ceremonies. Havana had a total of 530 graduates, and 170 are still living. About 110 people (including spouses) attended the all-school banquet Saturday night. The last graduating class from the school was in 1969.

Marshall County Journal

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Phone: (605) 448-2281
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