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Published September 04, 2012, 10:40 AM

Big Iron: Schollander pride

Not everyone agrees on whether Schollander Pavilion was named for Art Schollander, the man who sold the land to the county at a discount, or for his grandson who was a bonafide Olympic swimming hero. Officially, the centerpiece building for the Red River Valley Fair and Big Iron was named for Art Schollander.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Not everyone agrees on whether Schollander Pavilion was named for Art Schollander, the man who sold the land to the county at a discount, or for his grandson who was a bonafide Olympic swimming hero.

Officially, the centerpiece building for the Red River Valley Fair and Big Iron was named for Art Schollander.

Schollander was a retired farmer who negotiated a reduced-price sale of the 166 acres for the fairgrounds, “providing the Schollander name was used.” He died before the deal was complete, so his survivors completed it. The sale was $400 an acre and the going rate at the time was about $600.

Schollander’s farm was a perfect location for the fair, on Interstate 94 and the business loop. The pavilion was built in 1967, the year the fair moved to West Fargo from north Fargo. Schollander Pavilion was dedicated Aug. 17, 1967 by Gov. Bill Guy, with U.S. Sen. Quentin Burdick, D-N.D., and U.S. Rep. Mark Andrews, R-N.D., attending.

For years, the building’s front-end housed a photo portrait of Art, but also a companion portrait of his then-famous grandson, Don Schollander. As the years have gone by, not everyone remembers the story, says Bryan Schulz, the fair and show manager.

Art’s son, Wendell “Wendy” Schollander was a stand-out North Dakota State University football tailback in the 1930s. He served in the U.S. Army and then had an insurance career that took him to the Portland, Ore., area. Wendy’s oldest son was a football player but his second son, Donald, was a swimmer. Now, he’s 66.

In his teens, Don moved away from his family to Santa Clara, Calif., where he got the coaching that propelled him to international stardom, and cover pictures in Life Magazine. He won four Olympic gold medals for the U.S. in Tokyo in 1964 — the most successful athlete of the games — and another gold medal and a silver medal in Mexico City in 1968. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.

Don graduated from Yale University. He returned to the Portland area where he spent 35 years in the residential and commercial real estate business.

“For years, my parents would put us in the car and drive us to Fargo, every three years or so,” Don says. He remembers that his grandfather lived on 10th Street. “We’d drive out to the farmland and look at it,” he says. His remembers his grandfather as somewhat stern — a farmer, a teacher at NDSU, and a hail adjuster — a doer.

“My brother and I, even though we haven’t been back for a long, long time, it does mean a lot to us that there’s a pavilion that — in our mind — is honoring our grandfather,” the Olympian says. “He was quite a guy.”

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