June 21, 2018 10:20 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- A popular summertime celebration that started over a pesky rodent is now in its 144th year.
In 1874, two families from Viola held a contest to see who could trap the most gophers. More than a century later, the tradition lives on with families gathering to enjoy food, fun and gopher trapping.
"Over the years, it just became more and more of a celebration and less and less about the gophers," said Viola-native Dennis Ferguson who returned home for the Gopher Count.
However, the tradition of trapping gophers has not gone away completely. Competitors trap gophers all year and then bring the feet in to collect a bounty paid by the town.
"We still don't like the gophers messing with our fields, but it's really a town, really a family event," Ferguson said.
Thursday's soggy weather did not stop hundreds from coming out.
"But it's rain or shine and we knew that the people that come every year would still be here. We had a steady line at the food stand. And we still have a pretty good turnout considering the weather," said Emily Labare, president of the Viola Gopher Count.
"People come from the area here are very dedicated to gopher count and I see a lot of umbrellas here and they just show up anyway," Ferguson said.
Viola Township paid out just under $1,800 for about 600 pairs of gopher feet.
Updated: June 21, 2018 10:20 PM
Created: June 21, 2018 08:58 PM
Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company