By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, MN In recognition for their work within and service to the Dassel community, the Reverend Keith Carlson and his wife, Sue, will be riding as grand marshals in this year’s Red Rooster Days parade.
The Carlsons moved to Dassel in 1993, after Keith was called to be the pastor of Dassel Covenant Church. He served there for 24 years before retiring.
Since then, the Carlsons have been keeping busy by spending time with their kids and grandchildren, building a new home in rural Dassel, gardening, and (more recently) with Keith’s new part-time job as chaplain of Ecumen Homes in Litchfield.
Keith has also spent the last year or so serving as the facility’s hospice chaplain, the Dassel fire department’s chaplain, and filling area pulpits as needed.
Other opportunities he has had during his time here include being involved with the Dassel-Cokato Community Education board, the Meeker County Hospital board, the Ecumen home and hospice advisory board, and several area ministerial opportunities.
Keith has also helped collect Red Rooster Days chicken dinner meal tickets every year the Carlsons have lived in Dassel.
“Whatever I could do in being involved in the community,” Keith commented. “It’s been a fun thing to do.”
Keith has also enjoyed working with the community to serve others through mission trips, something he was never a part of before coming to Dassel.
“We have quite a number of people [at Dassel Convenant Church] who love to do mission trips,” he stated, noting that, so far, he has traveled with them to Alaska, Ecuador, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
The church will be returning to Ecuador this coming February, where Keith has been asked to lead a marriage counseling class.
“I’m hoping to go on that again. Not as pastor, but as just a worker,” he said.
Sue, meanwhile, has been actively involved in finishing quilts for people, using her own quilting/sewing room (with a long-arm quilting machine) in her basement.
She estimates she has finished more than 800 quilts in the 16 years she has been doing it.
For the Carlsons, the desire to help out in the community simply comes with the territory of being a part of it, which is why they were surprised to learn they had been selected as grand marshal.
“[Keith] answered the phone call,” remembered Sue, “and he said ‘ no!’ That was the first reaction. I thought, ‘What is he talking about?’ I never heard him say no before.”
“I think he was just surprised,” she added.
“I said, ‘No, you don’t want me to be that,’” Keith continued. “But, it was nice that they asked us to be there.”
In addition to being able to reconnect with people who come through the chicken dinner ticket line, Keith really enjoys the community worship service over Red Rooster Days weekend.
“This is a strong church community,” Keith stated, adding that it’s always neat to see the hosting church full not because it has a high-numbered congregation, but because area residents want to worship the Lord with their neighbors no matter what their regular church affiliation is.
And that pours into what the Carlsons like about the Dassel community, in general.
“I always tell people to remember how fortunate we are to live in this community,” said Keith, “and maybe the way I can explain that the best is the working relationship we have between the school and the ministerial.
“Twice a year, the administrators at the school meet with the ministerial to talk about the needs of the school and the kids . . . And any time there was a crisis or a need, they would [invite] us, along with other counselors to come in and provide care and nurture kids and families.”
He continued, “And that’s the type of community we live in, that is very open to everybody participating together and not feeling like you can’t be a part of this because you’re a church and we’re a public school. We live in a wonderful little bubble in Dassel-Cokato.”
Sue also stated that the small size and location is significant, and Keith agreed that it plays a role in how strong the community is knit together.
For this year’s Red Rooster Days celebration, the Carlsons are most looking forward to riding in the parade and seeing other members of the community.
The parade is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1 at 2 p.m., and will travel down 5th Street to William Avenue to Willis Street, and end at Lake Street.
Advance meal tickets for the Red Rooster Days chicken barbecue are available at Red Rooster Foods, Perennial Bank, and Dassel City Hall.