Excursion Boats and Sundown Dancing 1915

By David Schleper

The Minnesota River was a highway for people going up and down the river. Starting in 1915, the thrill was the excursion boats, which started in St. Paul and arrived in Shakopee in late morning.

The boat would spend the day in Shakopee, and then head back to St. Paul. The boat would have a barge in the back, where bands would play in the moonlight. Young adults, including those in Shakopee, would dance while the boat headed back to the capital.

Once the boat arrived to St Paul, it was time for the young adults to walk two or three blocks to the train station, where they took the midnight train back to Shakopee, arriving back at 1 a.m.

The anxious clergymen didn’t like the idea of sundown dancing, and having those young kids having too much fun. So the homilies on many weekend churches was for telling parents and children to stop the sundown dancing. Of course, just the opposite happened. As more people heard about the moon light dancing, more wanted to experience the thrill. So excursion boats and sundown dancing continued in 1915, 1916, and 1917.

One time, the boat and barge headed back to St. Paul, and the people enjoyed the dancing. But somehow, the people arrived in St. Paul too late, and they missed the train back to Shakopee. Their parents were not happy. At all. It almost stopped the excursion boats. Luckily, the boats continued for a few more years.

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