Minnesotan in training: March 19, 2014


I have to be honest: I’m a bit bummed for two reasons as I write this column.
First of all, it’s snowing, which thwarted my plans to write about spring. With the longer days, the sighting of grass in my backyard, the consistent noise of my sump pump running, and the Spring Equinox on Thursday, I was hopeful that winter was finally over.
Now, I’m feeling more delirious than hopeful.
Reason No. 2: the St. Patrick’s season is officially over.
While St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over on and around March 17, the celebration is stretched over a couple weeks here.
It started with the Ambassadors’ Social on Sunday, Feb. 23.
This event gives the community a chance to get to know the young women vying to represent Maple Lake as ambassadors.
The girls have fun with it, picking an outfit they feel best represents them and putting in a plug for their sponsors. It gives them a chance to get used to public speaking, which is a big part of their candidacy. As a former state speech participant, I’m a big believer in the value of public speaking.
Each girl did a great job in that initial showcase. I’d like to give a shout out to each of them and the Maple Lake Ambassador Organization Committee. With merely weeks to coordinate the social, the newly reconfigured group pulled together to make it happen.
This year, the Irish Gala became the Irish Pre-Party and it was a huge success. Not only did it draw the biggest crowd ever to the Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce’s largest fundraiser, but it also raised a record amount to support Chamber events throughout the year.
The best part of the event is that, even though I was covering it, it didn’t feel like work.
Both my parents and in-laws enjoyed it with Sarah and I and are already talking about coming back next year.
Ventriloquist David Malmberg and his dummies provided plenty of laughs, some at the expense of John Rivers and myself. He and I had a great time laughing at ourselves and John was rewarded for being the brunt of several jokes when Malmberg took a look at his uncle’s ventriloquist dummy and was able to shed some light on its maker and the history behind it.
Kudos to everyone who made the event possible, from booking the entertainment to coordinating the silent auction and everything in between.
Of course, St. Patrick’s Day weekend wouldn’t be the same without everything that happened on Saturday and none of that would have happened without everyone working behind the scenes.
I heard from more than one source that the craft show was a huge success, with exhibitors pouring out of the elementary school gym into the hallway. Betty and Dawn Gordon are pros at running the show and it works like a well-oiled machine.
Another well-oiled machine is the Irish Scamper 5K, which benefits the Maple Lake High School track and field teams.
The whole event is well-organized and chip timing at the finish line has clearly simplified the process. 
According to that system, 441 runners and walkers crossed the finish line. They hail from throughout Minnesota and five other states, including Maine, Washington and California. While that number is a bit down from previous years, it still provides great support for the talented athletes that represent Maple Lake on the track and field teams. All the participants, volunteers, city staff and law enforcement personnel deserve credit for making it happen.
This year’s parade got surprisingly close to the record of 118 entries, thanks in no small part to Irene Hudek, Deb Geyen and their army of volunteers.
Some units drove more than an hour and a half to be a part of the parade. I don’t know how many other towns of Maple Lake’s size have parades with that kind of pull, especially in March during a Minnesota winter that doesn’t want to end.
There was something for everyone. 
Appropriately, it started with a salute to veterans. As Deb Geyen and Tricia Manuel mentioned during the Irish Pre-Party, everyone in Maple Lake knows to stand and show respect for the veterans as Jim Vrchota sings, “God Bless the USA.”
Visiting royalty from 35 different towns braved the gloomy afternoon to showcase their communities and advertise their upcoming events.
Area businesses and nonprofit organizations were also well represented, many of them showing off their creativity and providing treats for kids of all ages.
Suffice it to say that it was a good mix and everyone who made it happen deserves credit.
Following the parade, the royalty and their fans made their way to the Maple Lake High School gym.
Each candidate continued to represent herself and the community well. It was also clear that the MLAO put in a lot of effort to organize the event. As is the case with all St. Patrick’s Day events, a lot of work behind the scenes.
I’d also like to give a shout out to all the nonprofit organizations who take part in the St. Patrick’s Day Festival by selling food throughout the day. As a Lion, I was especially proud to see about 20 individuals show up to chop vegetables for the famous Mulligan Stew, not to mention everyone who showed up on Saturday to set up shop. Of course, such efforts would be pointless without the people who support nonprofits by buying food and drinks from them throughout the day, so thank you to all the patrons as well.
Speaking of the St. Patrick’s Day patrons, I’d like to thank everyone who chose a designated driver, including the strangers who asked me for a ride rather than driving under the influence. It seems like most people are realizing it’s not worth it to drive drunk and that’s encouraging.
On a completely unrelated note, I’d also like to thank the stranger who pulled me out of the mud the other night. Completely underestimating how muddy a parking lot may be is embarassing, but you made me feel much better about the situation. For the record, this is the second time I’ve gotten my car stuck in and around Maple Lake and I didn’t have to call for help either time, thanks to complete strangers.
To me, that’s the definition of “Minnesota Nice” that makes places like Maple Lake so great.