July 19, 2007 at 7:58 a.m.
Actually, Swenson and his wife of nearly 60 years, Geri, will both serve as Grand Marshals of this year's festival, but Andy is not entirely pleased about it.
Not that the Swensons aren't both extremely personable and friendly, ready to welcome visitors into their home, nestled in the beautiful, forested woods on a hilltop overlooking the St. Croix River in Taylors Falls.
And not that Andy doesn't thoroughly enjoy Wannigan Days and recognize the importance of the annual festival in Taylors Falls.
No, Andy is reluctant to talk about himself and accept the honor of Wannigan Days Grand Marshal not because he's not an outgoing, caring person, but because he feels he's really nothing special.
Although he agrees when Geri says it's a great honor to be named Grand Marshal, he's not sure he is the best person for the recognition.
"There are other people who deserve it more than me," he said. "So many others do so much more for the city."
That point would be argued by many community members who have known the Swensons over the years, particularly the members of the Wannigan Days Committee who selected the Swensons this year.
The couple moved to Taylors Falls in 1952, where they soon joined the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Taylors Falls. They immediately became active members of the church.
Later, Andy worked to help start the Taylors Falls Lion's Club, and is one of two remaining charter members. He actively volunteers for Lion's Club causes, especially serving with Geri as caretakers of Lion's Park.
The twin parks are just down the road from the Swensons 60-acre homesite, and they visit both places everyday. They spend time cleaning up trash, checking the donation boxes, cutting brush, and tending to any repairs or upkeep that may be needed.
Andy was instrumental in working to get recently installed playground equipment at both sites. The equipment was donated from the City of Oakdale. Andy said the Lion's Club is extremely grateful to have the free equipment, because it is such an asset to the parks. They will be inviting Oakdale city officials to a party at the park later this year as an official thank-you.
Andy is a former mayor of Taylors Falls and also served on the city council.
The couple were entrepreneurs in those first decades of living in Taylors Falls. Andy and a co-owner bought the Almelund Hardware store and ran that for several years. They were in business the year that Wild River State Park opened just north of town and it gave the Swensons an idea to open a campground on some of their Taylors Falls land.
A year later, Camp Waub-o-Jeeg was opened.
"That was a lot of fun," Geri said of running the campground and meeting so many people.
They decided to sell the campground and build a new house on the northern portion of their property in 1987. They now enjoy a yard filled with flowers and landscape ponds, where things are quiet except for the occasional deer or bear moving through.
Retired life doesn't hold the Swensons down for long, however. While their three children - MaryAnn, Wayne and Linda - still live in the area, they have grandchildren and great-grandchildren spread out across the country. This gives them the opportunity to travel, which they enjoy as a big part of retirement.
"We travel a lot," Andy said. "Life is too short to sit around."
Not every trip is strictly for pleasure. The Swensons just returned from a mission trip to Ecuador. They have worked in five different amazon villages during their 10 years of mission work there, living in primitive conditions while helping out where they can.
While Andy hasn't been involved in the planning of Wannigan Days for a while, he was part of the first Wannigan Days celebration. The committee formed when residents wanted a way to celebrate the town's centennial, so it all started with the Wannigan Days parade with a wannigan as the focal point.
The couple are happy to ride in the parade as Grand Marshals, but Andy still isn't sure he should be receiving such attention, evident when he had to be coaxed into having his photo taken for the newspaper.
Wannigan Days starts today, July 19, in both Taylors Falls and St. Croix Falls, with festivities running through Sunday, July 22. Look for the Swensons in the parade Saturday at 6 p.m.