Webster’s claim to fame was mostly due to a band of men called the Wild Rivers Boys. In the beginning of 1965, all of the communities in the area were getting ready for the County’s centennial celebration. Most of the towns already had everything together and were rearing to go. The co-founder of Webster, Jack Swedberg, thought that Webster was dragging its feet getting ready and thought something had to be done.
That something that needed to be done ended up being the beginnings of the Wild Rivers Boys, a group of men that dressed in old clothes wearing raggedy fake beards. Fellow co-founders Dennis Christianson and Tony Curto were the forerunners of the group and Swedberg said, “I had always liked the Beverly Hillbillies TV show so that lent to the way we dressed. The name tied in with the Wild Rivers legislature that was making its way through Congress at the time.”
Minnie McPherson helped the men out by letting them use her 1914 Model T touring car. This led to them originally being called ‘Ma and Her Boys’. The men would put on their old clothes, fake beards and wild looking hats before any of the parades and give everyone quite the comedic show.
The Wild Rivers Boys first official act was to go and meet a Greyhound bus that was arriving in Webster in order to give the passengers a real giant welcome to the area. When the bus stopped, all of the men jumped onto the bus and began to shoot off black powder blanks from their shotguns. Swedberg stated, “I’m sure passengers were wondering what they had gotten themselves into. We even kidnapped some of the younger women, took them around the block and brought them back to the bus.” He went on to admit, “If we did some of the stuff today that we did back then, we’d be arrested.”
In 1965, Ma and Her Boys were a part of the Webster and the Grantsburg Centennial parades. The following year not much happened with the group, but by 1967, they had changed their name to Ma and the Wild Rivers Boys. Audiences doubled at parades as the group attended more than 20 of them that year and the next. Ma and the Wild Rivers Boys were known everywhere from Duluth to Lake Geneva and everybody was getting a kick out of their performances.
They even received an invite to perform in the St. Paul Winter Carnival. They performed there for two years but were told that they were disqualified the third year. When asked why, they were told that PETA reported them because PETA thought that they were abusing animals. This accusation came from a stunt they had pulled in one of their parade performances where a newspaper filled skunk hide was put on a mono filament line which was being dragged by one of the men as he ran, so it had looked like he was being chased by the skunk.
In the year 1968, the Wild Rivers Boys upgraded their performance with a new mode of transportation. It was called the slabmobile. The slabmobile was the chassis of a 1956 Chevy with the body having been rebuilt with angle iron and slabwood. This car also used various parts from other older antique cars, so it was quite the sight.
The Wild Rivers Boys can still be seen at some of the parades in Webster as new members dress up and take on the roles.
Information in this article was obtained from the Webster Centennial Paper.