MARSHALL - The standing ovations said it all.
From the time that the 2012 Boys Staters arrived on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University, they were taken very good care of by a host of people, most of whom volunteer their service for the annual American Legion Boys State program. Oftentimes, those people work behind the scenes, filling in and taking care of whatever needs to be done. On Friday, the Boys Staters gave thanks to those individuals.
ARAMARK food service representative Bronwyn Goehle got a standing ovation on behalf of the food staff of approximately 25, as did SMSU representative Scott Ewing.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Kate Bredeck, right, and Priscilla Rotunda are two of the many volunteers who helped the 2012 Minnesota Legion Boys State program run smoothly all week.
Likewise, the Boys Staters got their own praise.
"They're really a great group of kids," said Goehle, who manages the front of the house at SMSU. "They're very polite and courteous. We really like having them here."
Ewing even went as far as admitting that he'd allow his two daughters, when they grew up, to date a young man if he were anything like the individuals at Boys State this year.
"You've restored my faith in your generation," Ewing said.
THE FOOD PROVIDERS
Feeding a few hundred growing boys for six straight days requires a remarkable amount of food and planning.
"We'll go through 800 pounds of eggs and 700 pounds of bananas," ARAMARK executive chef Dennis Nord said. "We'll also do 120 gallons of lemonade, about 100 gallons of coffee and probably 4,500 cookies."
In addition, Nord estimates that the group consumes approximately 900 doughnuts, 720 pounds of chocolate pudding, 113 pounds of deli ham, 95 pounds of deli turkey and 175 pounds of sausage. The feedback, he said, has been all positive.
"I'm liking the food a lot," Tracy Area Boys Stater Tommy Nelson said.
The biggest challenge, Nord said, is getting all the food out at one time.
"They all eat at the same time, so we have to have all the food out at one time, also. So it takes some timing."
For the most part, though, the process has went smoothly.
"We've been feeding about 425 a day for three meals a day," Nord said. "They're a very nice, polite group of guys, so it's very easy to work with them. They're always so considerate."
Having Boys State on the campus for the sixth straight year has assisted Nord in his planning of the event.
"It takes a lot of food, but we keep records from previous years, so we have all our usage," he said. "We have a pretty good idea of what we're going to go through each meal."
Breakfast always included scrambled eggs, a meat, potato and fruit. On Friday, pancakes were served. Lunchtime, Nord said, centered more around things like hamburgers or ribless sandwiches, while dinners included meals like meatloaf, salisbury steak, pork loin or roast turkey with all the fixings.
"We try to give them a meal that they'd have at home," Nord said. "We also have our salad bar and our jelly bar, so they can have some healthier options, too. We try to keep moms happy."
As Residential dining assistant manager, Goehle said her main focus is to make sure everything is cleaned up and ready to go for the next meal, including wiping down tables.
"So we do that three times a day," she said. "Bing bang. We start at 6 o' clock in the morning and we're here till about 8 p.m. Luckily, we have an incredible team of people, both in the front and the back of the house."
THE MEMORY KEEPERS
For the past 64 years, someone has been in charge of capturing priceless moments during Boys State events. And, it can be a very time-consuming venture. Boys State historian Cy Molitor has stepped up in past years, researching and recording the six-decade history, taking photos and compiling everything into a book.
"Cy was the (Marshall American Legion) Commander when we started coming to SMSU," Minnesota Boys State Director Mike Bredeck said. "He runs the history and does a wonderful job."
While the first book will include the first 60 years of the Minnesota program, the next edition, Molitor said, will likely include 10 years of history.
"We've started to get up to about 35 pages for each year," he said. "We'll probably get 10 years into the next book."
First year volunteer Shanna Hood was given the role of official staff photographer. Anytime a group photo needed to be taken, Hood was there. She also assisted at headquarters.
"We all just do what needs to be done," Hood said.
Jim Tate, SMSU communications director, has worked on an annual basis with an energetic group of Boys Staters, publishing daily news in the "State of the Boys," in an eight-page format.
"The boys do the vast majority of the work," said Jennifer Kohler, who has assisted Tate for the past two years. "They're the ones that attend the presentations, write the stories. Really, we're just there as editors, to make sure everything is grammatically, spelling-wise, correct, get it in the paper and format it properly."
The Boys State news staff, including Marshall's Bo Erickson and Murray County Central's Michael Vander Wal, consistently had more than 15 members each day, which Kohler, who primarily snapped photos this year, said she appreciated.
"They have so much going on during the week and there's no real time set aside to do the newspaper," Kohler said. "So I'm real appreciative to them because it was in addition to everything else that they were doing. This year, they were spot on, too, so it's been great."
Keeping track of ever-changing data in organized fashion is the specialty of about a dozen office personnel at the Boys State headquarters.
"The secretarial and office staff are unbelievable," Bredeck said.
Jim Copher, in his eighth year as a volunteer, is in charge of the office.
"I promised that when I retired that I would come to Boys State and I did," Copher said. "It's going quite well. We have a real good staff this year. Shanna has been an outstanding addition."
Matt Verkuilen is the lead computer technology person, as well as being the go-to guy for medical concerns. Kate Bredeck and Priscilla Rutunda do most of the data entry.
"Every time I look over at Kate and Priscilla, they are pounding away on a project," Hood said. "And Alex is the best at reading names off. He says them funny on purpose."
Sitting behind a computer or dealing with a mountain of paperwork every day can get long, but the crew seems to handle it just fine.
"I like to be over here by 8 a.m.," Bredeck said. "I get my own breakfast so I can sleep in a little longer. And we're here till 10-10-30 p.m. every night. "But it makes it fun when you have such a good staff."
Peggy Moon and Bert Marth also do their part in the office.
"You have to be ready to react at a moment's notice," Marth said. "And, we always try."
Marth is retired military and was once the New Ulm American Legion Commander, but has never officially worked at Boys State until this year.
"I'm the new kid on the block," she said. "But I've brought three New Ulm kids here for the last 15 years. We have the distinction of having three (New Ulm) boys get the $20,000 Samsung scholarship."
THE COUNSELORS and SUPPORT STAFF
Boys State leadership comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the majority happen to be wearing red T-shirts. More than 50 volunteer counselors serve during the week-long affair.
"The city counselors are the ones that do the day to day working process," Mike Bredeck said. "They do the city government and actually teach all of the Boys State program, and the speakers supplement the parts that they do."
Kevin Barth, a 2010 Boys Stater, took a break from college to attend for the second straight year.
"It's all volunteer," Barth said. "You can tell the importance that I feel the Boys State program has in fostering the next generation of leaders. I'm having a fantastic time."
Barth, who is majoring in airline management and flight operations, said he'll continue being an advocate for the program.
"We're encouraging these young leaders to pick up and lead the nation into prosperity," he said. "Ensuring we have programs like Boys State, the continuation of our nation will be sustained. We take these boys and turn them into real gentlemen with integrity, respect and honor."
In addition to particular political counselors that help in the convention system, Bredeck said that three county counselors - Verkuilen, Ryan Lorsung and Andy Post - coordinate to make sure all the city counselors are on the same page.
There is also an operating staff, which includes the Dean of Boys State David Way, who was given 38 years of service.
Clad in his navy blue shirt, Graham Sparks, the 2011 Minnesota Boys State Governor, was easy to spot and very approachable.
"He's been a tremendous Governor," Bredeck said. "He's been doing a phenomenal job."
THE ACTIVITY DIRECTORS
All week, Boys Staters had the opportunity to participate in a number of activities, including volleyball, basketball, softball, band, choir and drum line.
"It enhances the program, I think," said choir director Brad Brandt, who assists in the fine arts activities along with Marty Seifert (drumline) and John Ginocchio (band).
Athletic director Bill Zwiener has volunteered for 62 years since Minnesota started Boys State in 1949.
"I enjoy working with the young kids," Zwiener said. "They're good sports. I've never seen anything like it."
Zwiener said organizers used to chose officials for the contests, but the kids do better when they referee their own ballgames. I haven't heard one argument for years."
Along with coordinator Lee Tallakson, Wayne Taintor, 88, assisted with the sporting events and was on hand in case of injuries.
"They're having a good time," said Taintor, who showed his humorous side by telling multiple jokes to bystanders.
Taintor, who lives in Marshall, attended Boys State in North Dakota in 1939.
"Minnesota didn't even have it back then," he said. "But I'm thankful to be here now."