Wild West Days to keep spirit alive

by Nathan Warner

Contributing writer

Named after local legend Anna Mae Illiff, Anna Mae’s Mercantile will close down Main Street in Zimmerman next week for Wild West Days. Organized by new Civic Club member Amy Hicks, the Mercantile runs next Friday through Sunday, hosting a record range of vendors, in memory of one of Zimmerman’s matrons.

“Anna Mae was married to Wendell Illiff, the local grocer and butcher who owned the Mercantile general store in Zimmerman years ago,” Bill Potrament, president of the Zimmerman Civic Club recalls. “They were very involved in the community, being founding members of St. Pius X Catholic Church for one thing.” Wendell died young and Anne Mae kept the family going as well as the business.

She was also one of the founding members of the Zimmerman Betterment Club, a forerunner of the Zimmerman Civic Club.

“We wanted to honor Anna Mae’s memory as the wonderful and colorful character she was,” Potrament said, “in a way that would annually remind people in Zimmerman about her resourceful and upbeat spirit. Resurrecting the Mercantile was the perfect thing.”

Shutting down a portion of Main Street for three days is unprecedented for the annual celebration and required a lot of planning. Hicks has had to work closely with the director of Public Works and the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department on a safety plan to ensure safe operation of the Mercantile during the event.

“Public safety was crucial to this,” Potrament said, “and they got great cooperation from the city and county.” He added that Sheriff Reserve Unit Capt. Bill Jones has always been indispensable with organizing the reserves to ensure excellent public safety during Wild West Days, “and the Mercantile will be no different.”

Currently 20 vendors have signed up to deliver their presence at the Mercantile, including newcomers such as the Picky Pooch Bakery from Princeton, which offers specialty bakery items for pets, and Barrels Up, featuring camping, fishing and hunting items and the Dirty Girl Camo clothing line.

“We’re all really psyched about it, and we hope it will become a cornerstone to further establish the great yearly institution that is Wild West Days,” Potrament said.