In 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, the
phenomenon of dance marathons sprang up around the country.
The concept was that dancers would dance continually, with
only a five minute break each hour, until they dropped out,
leaving one couple to collect fabulous prizes. Bleachers
were set up for the audience, which was entertained with
live music and stunts. A prominent movie about dance
marathons is “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” starring Jane
Incredibly such a marathon, called a "walkathon," came to
St. Louis Park in 1934, when a company set up a tent on
Wayzata Blvd., close to McCarthy's restaurant. Thanks to
Earl Ames, whose father worked as a security guard at the
event, we have two pictures, one showing five seriously
fatigued couples, and one of a large wedding party posing in
the tent. The latter shows that there were 18 couples left,
and that they had completed 598 hours. You can view the
wedding picture on our website at
And we have a newspaper article that should be quoted in
full (probably from the Minneapolis Journal):
WALKATHON HIT BY GRAND JURY
Retiring Body Says "Cheap, Contemptible Spectacle" Should Be
Denouncing the walkathon now in the last stages in a huge
tent on Wayzata boulevard as a "cheap, contemptible
spectacle," the retiring grand jury Saturday called for a
legislative act prohibiting similar contests.
Laws now on the statute books governing itinerant carnivals
should be invoked to stop the walkathon on the grounds that
it is injurious to the health of participants and
detrimental to public morals, the report held.
The next legislature should pass an act specifically
prohibiting "any such ridiculous endurance contests being
established anywhere in the state."
In addition to the walkathon now nearing its close in St.
Louis Park, another similar contest is being held near
Shakopee, while several others are attracting crowds at
other points in the state.