Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Spring Fever Days this weekend

Mike Rudebeck honored as 2014 grand marshal


Lois Johnson

Mike Rudebeck will lead Saturday's Barnum Spring Fever Days parade as grand marshal.

Mike Rudebeck has followed in his parents' footsteps in helping with community events, and he has been honored for his years of service by being named the grand marshal of the Spring Fever Days parade, to be held on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 11 a.m. in downtown Barnum.

A big part of Mike's involvement has been sponsoring the fishing contest for 23 years. The fishing contest is always held earlier in the morning on Saturday of Spring Fever Days.

"I've sponsored that as King Creek Taxidermy for 23 years," said Mike in a recent interview in his log home. "Gretchen, my girlfriend, is my helper.

"We have 20 boats with two people in a boat on Bear Lake. We start the contest at 7 a.m. and run it until 9:30 a.m. We split the entry fees into first, second, third and fourth prizes by percentages."

Mike said that, over the years, he has seen the change in the ages of the contestants.

"There are more younger people now," he said. "Before there were mostly older people.

"The competition is always good. They are rivalries between different groups from year to year."

Although Mike no longer has King Creek Taxidermy, he still uses his business name to sponsor the contest.

Mike created quite a few lifelike arrangements of animals, birds, waterfowl and fish during his 28 years of doing taxidermy. But that all changed six years ago.

"I was trying to lift heavy equipment on the job in 2008," he said. "I broke the fourth vertebrae in my neck. It screwed up my left arm. I now have a 12-pound restriction on weight."

Mike said that, although he is frustrated that he had to leave his job as custodian for the Barnum schools, and he can no longer do taxidermy, he feels fortunate that it was the fourth vertebrae that he broke and not the fifth.

Breaking the fifth vertebrae renders a person a paraplegic.

"I'm glad that I didn't end up that way," he said.

Fish are no longer mounted. Photos are taken of big fish, and graphite models are painted in the exact shades of color as the fish that was caught.

"I still do a little bit of graphite fish," he said. "But I can't stand real long to paint them. And then I lose interest."

Another one of the activities that Mike enjoyed for 33 years was as a firefighter on the Barnum Fire Department.

"I used to help with the steak fry (that the fire department sponsors) for Spring Fever Days until I got hurt," he said. "Now I can't stand for very long and can't help out anymore.

"I'm still friends with the guys. Quite a few of the guys retired after I got hurt."

There have been big changes on the fire department since Mike served, including four years as chief.

"Now they have a lot more training," he said. "We used to only have to go to 10 hours of training a year. Now it is 85 hours a year.

"There is different equipment to learn to operate. Some of the new firefighters get excited when there is an emergency. But, after a while they settle down and become good firefighters."

Mike also talked about the change in the size of the Barnum schools, where he was a custodian for 37 years.

"There was just 25,000 square feet when I started," he said. "Now it is 100,000, and they are talking about adding more."

To fill his time since he suffered his disability, Mike has broadened his culinary skills.

"I do a lot of cooking," he said. "I make barbecue sauce and salsa. It's fun and it doesn't take a lot of money. People enjoy the foods that I make."

A big smoker stands in the back yard.

"I make a lot of jerky and smoked fish," Mike added.

Mike grows the ingredients for his salsa and other specialties in a small garden.

"What used to take me a day now takes three or four days," Mike said. "I put down cloth between the rows to keep the weeds down. I can't do as much work, it hurts my neck."

Occasional fishing trips and running his trapline by snowmobile in the winter fills more of his time.

And so do his three children, who are grown. Two live in the area.

He has four grandsons, ages 6 to 14, who love to spend time with their grandfather in his outdoor activities.

"Whatever I'm doing, they love it too," he said.

As for the honor of being named the grand marshal, Mike said: "I was surprised. I like to help people. It's good that they appreciate it. My folks were that way too. My dad (Tuffy Rudebeck) sold a lot of Trout-O-Rama tickets over the years."

(Trout-O-Rama was once a fishing contest held on the ice in March at Bent Trout Lake near Barnum. The contest is no longer held.)

Grand Marshal Mike Rudebeck will be waving to the crowds with his right hand as he leads the parade, starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Barnum.


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