By Jennifer Von Ohlen
COKATO, MN In recognition of their long-time involvement with the Cokato community, Bruce and Susan Bohnsack have been named the 2016 Cokato Corn Carnival parade grand marshals.
The Bohnsacks arrived in Cokato in 1976, when Bruce decided to start his own dental practice from scratch after researching 13 possible communities to call home.
They moved into a house next to Peterson Park three days before the carnival, not even knowing about it until the tents were up and festivities were about to be underway.
Susan remembers their joke at the time about Cokato throwing a big party for all the new folks in town.
However, they did not stay newcomers for long.
“We both just dove into doing things in the community from day one,” Bruce stated.
Now, 40 years later, and almost to the exact day, the Bohnsacks have been named parade grand marshals for all they have contributed to the community and its people.
While the Bohnsacks are grateful for the honor, neither of them feel they have done anything necessarily extraordinary to receive the praise.
When it comes to serving the community, Bruce said, “It almost feels like an obligation. I don’t do it out of obligation, but a lot of people worked really hard before we got here. A lot of people were community pillars.”
“There were so many people who spent so much time trying to make Cokato a better place to live, you almost feel you had to keep that going,” he continued.
“We saw all of the service [the pillars] provided, and it taught us,” Susan stated.
“Don’t let down that tradition, it’s important,” she continued.
A more personal reason for their aiming to better Cokato was for their four kids. Susan admits the children likely received the short end of the stick from time to time, though, as sometimes both she and Bruce would have evening meetings.
“They must have been pretty supportive of what we were trying to do,” Susan said. Now living on their own, the Bohnsack children seem to have followed in their parents’ footsteps as all are actively involved in their own communities.
In addition to their children, Bruce and Susan depended on each other’s support in their endeavors.
“It was a team effort all the way through,” Bruce stated. If he was out, Susan would tend the “fires” at home, and whenever Susan had an evening commitment, Bruce would be the one cooking supper.
Whenever Bruce was not working at the dental office, he was usually out providing other services to the community, such as by being a member of the chamber of commerce, the Rotary Club, serving on the Dassel-Cokato School Board, starting the football boosters group, and participating in his church and the schools.
Susan, who feels blessed to have been a stay-at-home mom, enjoyed using her available free time to help out in anything that involved children, such as opportunities at church and at school.
She served as the Sunday school superintendent for about 12 years at Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato (CELC), was the prom decorating chairman for a decade, and fulfilled much of the calligraphy needs of the community, school, and American Legion.
She helped out with the speech team for about 15 years, performed handicap puppeteering at Wright County schools demonstrating handicap awareness, participated in preparing Faculty Follies at DC, and has been an active library board member.
“We’re just so happy to have ended up here, and I don’t think we could have been happier anywhere else,” Susan stated.
While the Bohnsacks have always believed Cokato to be a supportive town, it came into focus for each of them personally when tragedy struck the family this past spring.
“If you got trouble in your life, if you’re hurting, these people really band together to support you,” Susan said.
In feeling so blessed by the community throughout their time here, the Bohnsacks feel they simply have to give back to it.
One of their annual ways of doing that is by helping out with the Corn Carnival.
“It’s a neat festival,” Bruce said. “It’s just good, clean family fun.”
For several years, Bruce worked the information booth, before shifting his emphasis to the Rotary Club’s root beer float stand which he helped organize with another member.
Susan has spent much of her carnival time in the CELC food stand throughout the years, and Bruce has also stepped in to help out there.
Although the hours can get long, the Bohnsacks believe providing help during the carnival is a willing-necessity.
“Besides just getting free sweet corn, it builds relationships. It builds PR for our community,” stated Susan. “You’re working with your friends, it’s hot, it’s hard, or it’s rainy and it’s cold again, it’s a part. It’s one more thing to better our community.”
The Bohnsacks received the Community Service Award at last year’s Corn Carnival, and were recognized by Cokato Corn Carnival Chair Dorene Erickson as having “been in the background, getting work done around here for years.”
While the Bohnsacks have noticed they have been getting more tired lately, they are up for another go at this year’s carnival.
“We feel it’s important that people, if at all possible, dig down a little deeper, get involved, and participate to keep things going,” Bruce stated, whether it is for schools, churches, the fire department, service clubs, or other groups; the Bohnsacks said there are always people looking for volunteer help.
The Bohnsacks encourage anyone interested in assisting with the Corn Carnival to contact a Corn Carnival committee member or the city hall for direction. They also encourage residents to look into other volunteer opportunities around the community, to help meet needs and further better Cokato.
“I think this is a great community,” said Bruce. “I think it has a lot of great core values that people respect, and they respect each other.”
“It’s been a good ride,” he continued. “No regrets, not a one.”