By Kristen Miller
Cokato natives Russ and Bev Irvin were unanimously chosen this year by the Cokato Corn Carnival Committee to represent the 2008 carnival as grand marshals.
Russ and Bev were high school sweethearts and have recently celebrated 49 years of marriage.
In 1958, Bev was crowned snow queen and represented Cokato and the Corn Carnival.
She worked at the State Bank of Cokato for almost 40 years before retiring in 2005.
Russ was a carpet installer for Lundeen Floor Covering for 37 years, and retired in 2002.
During their retirement, the two have been keeping busy not only with their 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, but also being active within their church and around the community.
An aspect of her life Bev finds to be very rewarding is volunteering at the Dassel-Cokato Middle School, where she helps fifth graders with reading.
For the past two school years, Bev has been involved in the middle school’s reading program, led by Kathryn Athmann.
“It’s just a special time to spend with [the students],” Bev said.
She has served as secretary of the Cokato Senior Apartments for the past 20 years, and is the deacon of the Elim Mission Church’s Care Council.
“Bev has always been an example of a Godly woman,” said Jill Plowman, Cokato resident and friend of the Irvins.
Russ, when he isn’t co-coordinating the food shelf, is likely working in his garden or helping out a friend in need.
In 2004, Russ, along with Jim Kirkpatrick, Ralph Lundeen, and LuAnne Basney, volunteered for the refurbishing of the Caribbean Mercy medical ship in Panama while it was dry-docked.
In 2006, Russ was one of 10 Minnesotans who received the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service after being nominated by a friend.
It was his volunteer service on the local, national, and international spectrum that made him so qualified for the award, including time spent in the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina, flooding along the Red River Valley in 2001, the local Habitat for Humanity, and serving in other areas of the church and community.
“It’s very rewarding being of help to people,” Russ said.
Plowman has seen his willingness to help during various service projects they’ve participated in together.
“Whenever the time of need arises, Russ is always there,” Plowman said.
Though the couple donates a lot of their time, it’s not all work and no play.
Russ enjoys working in his vegetable garden and really enjoys eating those fresh, ripe tomatoes. Bev, on the other hand, enjoys flower gardening, which is evident by the splash of color surrounding their Cokato home.
Russ is into collecting. He has a collection of toy farm equipment, Minnesota Vikings memorabilia, Jacques Seeds novelties, as well as lures and fishing rod and reels.
Bev also has her own little collection of Corn Carnival buttons. She has every one from all 59 years.
She also enjoys photography and sewing. Bev calls herself the “piece-maker” because she sews and pieces the fabric together while having it quilted by a friend.
Together, the couple have three grown children, Sheryll, who lives in Eden Prairie, and Brian and Bruce, who both live in Cokato.
The two are expecting a busy fall, with two of their grandsons participating in college football and another two in high school football.
Bev’s fondest memory of the corn carnival was when she was the queen and pulled her dad’s ticket as one of the 10 names in the drawing for the car. In the end, her dad didn’t win the car (which he was happy about since he wouldn’t have found it fair), but it was the closest he had ever gotten, she said.
Russ thinks he has special power when it comes to driving queen candidates through the parade, and rightfully so. Each one of the candidates he has driven has either been crowned princess or queen.
The candidates have even caught on to this. Last year, Anji Nyquist, now one of the corn carnival princesses, wanted Russ to drive her in the parade. Whether Russ’s driving is lucky or not, Nyquist was crowned. This year, with Russ and Bev being the ones escorted in the parade, the candidates won’t have Russ to rely on.
Russ and Bev are honored to be nominated as Cokato’s grand marshals this year.
“We are humbled to be chosen, but we are very proud of representing Cokato,” Bev said.
She also gives thanks for their health to be so generous with their time.
“We are very grateful to have good health. Everyday we feel so blessed to be healthy making it possible to do these things. It’s not for us, it’s for God,” Bev said.
“We love the Cokato area,” Russ said.
“We are very content to stay right here,” Bev added.
See Russ and Bev as the grand marshals of the 59th annual Cokato Corn Carnival parade Monday beginning at 6 p.m.