Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 30, 2005

Long-time Good Neighbor Days emcee to retire

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

After this year, people will no longer be able to hear the anecdotes or see the colorful tuxedos Steve Berg uses while emceeing the coronation for Good Neighbor Days in Howard Lake.

It is believed this is Berg’s 25th year of emceeing the annual event, although no one is really quite sure.

“Nancy Main or Donna Munson asked me back in the late 1970s if I’d do it,” Berg said. “It’s been a year-to-year basis ever since.”

Berg has spoken to other people who emcee similar events, and discovered that he is probably the only one who has never practiced his routine before the night of coronation.

Throughout the past many years, he has developed some of his own traditions and his own way of doing and saying things.

“It’s been tradition every year to rent a tuxedo with the tie and cumberbund matching the Good Neighbor Days button,” Berg said. “The button was pink one year.”

While Berg was on stage hosting the event, Connie Schmieg, who was either reigning royalty or past royalty at the time, grabbed the microphone from Berg and asked the audience, “Now, isn’t he hot?”

“I turned more red than pink after that one,” Berg said with a laugh. “Just about every year something happens that’s embarrassing or funny for me.”

There has also been an ongoing joke from year-to-year about Berg’s hearing.

At last year’s coronation, Berg was interviewing candidate Camie Bernick. He asked Bernick a question, which she did not hear. She asked Berg to repeat the question, but Berg did not hear the request, and there was “dead air,” Berg said.

Berg was involved in the initial organization of Good Neighbor Days. He said there was a retail committee, which was a subdivision of the Howard Lake Business Association, that came up with the idea to have a community celebration.

“It’s developed over the years,” Berg said, noting he isn’t as involved with the planning now as he used to be.

The coronation is coordinated by the royalty committee, which Berg said “really needs to be commended.”

“I just go up there for a Sunday evening to emcee,” he said. “It’s an opportunity and a pleasure for me, but those people need to be commended for all of the work they do.”

Berg also has a special fondness toward the program as his two daughters, Jammie (Remer) and Kelli (Burau), were both ambassadors for the city. He also has fond memories of many of his employees going through the royalty program when he owned Red’s Pizza.

He said even though this is his final year, he’ll still “wing it” just like he has for all of the past years.

“I’ll just wait for the big applause – they’ll be clapping because they’re finally getting rid of me,” he said with a laugh.

Berg is one busy guy

When Berg first began emceeing, he and his wife, Trudi, owned Red’s in Howard Lake for 12 years. Following the sale of their business in 1988, Berg was the on-air sports director for one year for KRWC Radio in Buffalo.

He put in another two years as a financial advisor with American Express Financial, and in the early 1990s, started Clinic Cab, a non-emergency medical transportation business.

Three years ago, following the sale of Clinic Cab, Berg began working in real estate for Dan and Collene Fogarty. Trudi kept herself busy over the past years with her new restaurant venture in Howard Lake – Bergie’s Pizza and Subs.

In his spare moments, which are few and far between, Berg serves as the emergency management director for Wright County and the City of Lester Prairie.

This job entails updating the agencies’ emergency management plans on an annual basis, as well as writing grants, and responding in the event of a large disaster.

He has been a member of the Howard Lake Fire Department for 27 years, and, since February, also works part-time for Allina Ambulance, which has bases in Annandale, Buffalo, and Hanover.

“You’re supposed to slow down when you get older, but I think it’s going the other way,” he said with a laugh.

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