July 14, 2011 at 8:51 a.m.

Wannigan Days Parade Saturday night features historian and environmentalist as Grand Marshals

Wannigan Days Parade Saturday night features historian and environmentalist as Grand Marshals
Wannigan Days Parade Saturday night features historian and environmentalist as Grand Marshals

There's a Grand Marshal for the Taylors Falls Wannigan Days and a Grand Marshal for the St. Croix Falls side as part of Wannigan Days celebrations...and this year they are Jack Liljenberg and Gary Noren.

Liljenberg is a 1969 Taylors Falls High School graduate (the district merged with Chisago Lakes.) He has allegiances across the river, though, having been born in St. Croix Falls in 1951. Parade leadership is hereditary for Jack...one of his uncles was Grand Marshal in 1989 (Harry) and another uncle (Kenneth) followed in 1994.

Liljenberg said he's been considered "the unofficial Taylors Falls historian," in recent times. His mother, Minnie has Eckdahl family roots in Taylors Falls back to 1914.

** A fun fact is that Wannigan Days started in 1958 as part of the Minnesota Statehood Centennial Celebration.

The Ekdahl uncles are credited with proposing the wannigan days moniker and they built the "wannigan" used in the first parade.

Wannigans are a barge-houseboat style watercraft used as a floating kitchen and mess shack for loggers toiling on the St. Croix River.

Gary Noren's story also straddles the river.

He resides in Wisconsin now, but served here as the first-ever solid waste coordinator for Chisago County, a post from which he retired recently. Prior to that he taught math at Taylors Falls and was a special needs instructor for Pine Technical College.

His nomination was submitted by Leanne Waterworth from Northern Waters Literacy in recognition for his work tutoring youth and adults. Gary and his wife Marty are also volunteer mentors with Kinship of Polk County.

In typical Noren style, he was participating in the St. Croix River Association's 17-day, 180 mile anniversary paddle and couldn't be reached. We are assured by Marty that he'll be off the river for the Wannigan Days parade Saturday.

Noren was president of Friends of Wild River State Park (MN) for many years and continues his environmental advocacy on the Board of the St. Croix River Association and pursuing environmental photography, see paddle photos at www.scrapaddle.org.

Gary and Marty have a family of five children and five grandchildren with whom they share their love of the natural world and St. Croix River.


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