Riders and their wagons and horses are gathering at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, preparing for their departure on the Friendship Wagon Train on Saturday morning.

In its 29th year, the wagon train raises money for Camp Winnebago near Caledonia, which offers outdoor activities for children and adults with special needs. About 20 wagons will weave their way through southern Minnesota over a week, covering about 15-20 miles per day. The riders are primarily from around the Upper Midwest, but at least one entry rolled in from Alabama on Thursday night.

The public is invited to stop by the fairgrounds in Owatonna on Friday and learn more about the group. Saturday morning they begin the first leg, which ends in Claremont. Sunday they travel through Dodge Center before camping in Kasson that night.

On Monday they reach Rochester for a layover day that will include an auction on Tuesday at the Olmstead County History Center, which is open to the public. The trek resumes Wednesday and will swing through Pine Island, Zumbrota and Mazeppa, ending in Goodhue on Friday, June 30. Final ceremonies are Saturday, July 1, in Goodhue.

The total distance covered is about 115 miles. The wagon train will travel along county roads. The wagons are equipped with comfortable chairs and organizers expressed relief at a forecast calling for highs primarily in the 60s and 70s. Hot, humid weather can be hard on the animals.

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