Itâ€™s not every day that three national champions come to Jamestown and challenge the locals to a little competition. Iâ€™m guessing it hasnâ€™t happened since the winter of 1909 when the biggest names in ski jumping put on an exhibition in town.
It would appear back a century or so ago Jamestown had a ski jump hill. According to the Jamestown Alert it was located near the mill which was obviously located near what we now know as Mill Hill.
Ski jumping was a winter time hobby for amateurs and evidently there were enough locals who took part in the sport to keep the hill operating. There must have been enough interest to make it worthwhile for the champions to put on an exhibition too. Top prize for the challenge was a $100 for any â€œlocal boyâ€ that beat the champions.
Iâ€™m not sure how you would work up the courage to try ski jumping back then. After all prohibition was the law of the land in North Dakota although that wasnâ€™t always an obstacle.
Barney Riley was probably the least well known of the champions. Barney was from Virginia, Minn. and was the Class B national champion in 1910 and 1911. The Class B didnâ€™t indicate he came from a smaller town but jumped on the smaller hill. The intent was to keep the less skilled ski jumpers from getting injured on the bigger hills.
Evidently only flying through the air between 80 and 100 feet is much safer than the 120 to 130 feet the regular jumpers accomplished.
John Evenson was the 1908 and 1909 National Champion on the big hill. Evenson was from Duluth and set a national record of 131 feet, landing in good form, at the national competition held in Duluth in 1908.
Evenson was inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame in 2009.
But the best known of the stars at the Jamestown Professional Ski Tournament was Ole Feiring.
Feiring was born in Norway and was winning ski jumping tournaments there as a teenager before immigrating to the United States.
Feiring won his only American championship in 1906. He picked up $100 for his effort. Although it was his only national title he was a consistent competitor and, according to the website of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame, was the most popular ski jumper of the early 20th Century.
With no big money prizes I suppose the exhibitions the champions put on were their livelihood. Here in Jamestown admission was 50 cents for adults and a dime for children.
We donâ€™t know how the event turned out. The paper didnâ€™t cover the results or the attendance and the only reference to the event seems to be a paid advertisement. Ski jumping was largely a Norwegian sport and they werenâ€™t the major population factor in Jamestown that they were in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Â
But we can assume the crowd here in Jamestown chanted the same thing the Ski Jump Hall of Fame said was Feiringâ€™s personal cheer.
â€œYump, Ole, Yump.â€