6/15/2017 4:32:00 PM Midsummer Days Grand Marshal found sense of community in NB
The Grand Marshal leading this Sunday’s North Branch MidSummer Days Parade sat down for an early morning interview wearing his firefighters’ heavy canvas pants, suspenders over a Twins T-shirt, and his MN fire chief’s association ballcap. The apparel was no prop for the photographer, though. Kevin Grote’s pager had sounded about two hours earlier rousting him out of bed to assist at a rolled truck crash, on the northbound side of I-35. He had responded with one of the North Branch department’s smaller rigs, and still managed to keep an appointment with a reporter at County Market deli.
Firefighters on the west side of Chisago County are frequently dispatched to crash scenes all along the freeway. In North Branch they don’t tend to serve in a medical capacity or as “First Responders,” however, because Lakes Region EMS is headquartered right there in town.
Grote would continue to have a full day; even though, as a science teacher at North Branch Middle School, he was officially into his first full week of “summer vacation.”
As a rep for the North Branch Education Association, Grote would attend a contract negotiation session with school board and administration representatives later that same day.
He also coaches the North Branch district clay targets team which only just wrapped up pre-state contests and one of the team’s shooters will be at state, in Prior Lake later this month. The parade committee would be hard-pressed to have found a busier person to honor as Grand Marshal.
Grote says he accepted the Grand Marshal accolade as a tribute to all local public safety agencies, organizations and volunteers.
Several communities of law enforcement, medical and fire personnel, not to mention his school, are positive forces to be a part of, Grote said. He saw this spirit demonstrated when his wife Andrea passed away from cancer in 2013. They married in August 1989. “When we were in need (himself and his two grown kids) these people all came to help,” he states. In return, as fire department chief, he is proud to be able to help residents of North Branch in their time of need, he added.
Andrea is the reason this Grand Marshal came to reside in North Branch 28 years ago.
Grote was brought up by parents who he says were very active in their community of Waconia, and his wife’s father served in the state legislature.
He and Andrea were just sliding into life together, out-of-college when she was hired to teach in North Branch. They had an apartment on the third floor in a house next to the American Legion Post in North Branch, and he found employment with St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. He got a foot in the door at North Branch teaching night school and summer school students. This was at the end of the 1980s and by 1991 Grote started teaching science and coaching at North Branch.
He loves coaching because it gives him perspective on his students. “Sports is a way to get to know the students outside of the classroom and it gives me an opportunity to give back to the community.”
Grote appreciates clay target shooting because there’s no “boys” or “girls” equipment or rules. Everything is equal all across the board.
And, in sports, he says, just like the local public safety agencies, “everybody has to work together.”
In 1993 he was bowling with a league at JJs and somebody invited him to become a North Branch firefighter. Andrea, he said, was all for it, and told him it would be a great way to meet people.
He observed that, “North Branch has a great fire department and someday I’ll be gone and it will still have a great fire department.”
When you see him as Grand Marshal on Sunday, understand that he honors all the firefighters who came before and all the personnel who will serve down the road; maintaining this area’s stellar public safety in all its forms.
The parade steps off at 2 p.m. Sunday and follows mainstreet (Hwy. 95) from approximately the four-way stop at Grand, westerly several blocks to about #61 or County Rd. 30.