June 14, 2018 at 3:31 p.m.
Grand Marshal for 2018 Rick Hals has fond memories of MidSummer Days, now in its 93rd year, and one stands out-- riding in the parade in a covered wagon rig when he was a second grader. This Sunday he will be in the Grand Marshal car most likely with one of his grandsons, he said.
Hals has been active in local government for both the former City of Branch and blended North Branch city. He was on the council, he’s been a firefighter and was on the Board for Water & Light.
Coming of age in the Vietnam War Era, Hals served in the Army with a light engineering company at the Panama Canal, from 1966 to ‘68.
He got that assignment because of skills he already had from working with Hals Contracting, established by his grandfather. He started in the company shoveling, he said, “...everybody worked their way up.” The company was sold (to Bauerly Bros and then to Knife River) but Rick stayed involved in the industry, and only recently quit doing paving estimates and project oversight. He stays busy transporting vehicles across the midwest for Anderson & Koch Ford. Plus, he is an accomplished woodworker. The North Branch Legion Post has 11 shiny wood-top tables in the bar, that Hals built.
North Branch has had its share of boom times and down-cycles and Hals says they were all interesting.
Upon his return from service abroad, North Branch was in a growth cycle and the road contracting work was steady. “The freeway came through and things really popped,” jobwise, he added. And, it appears the area is now attracting interest again.
Hals hopes that in his new role as post commander he will be able to build the number of active military servicepersons. He said membership is at 237, but you can only count on a handful of people to show up and actually do the work. He understands younger vets’ reluctance to get active in a Legion or VFW. For a couple years after he was home from Panama, the last thing he wanted to do was anything related to the military.
But, he said, “You get involved though, and start to make friends and find out what the post is all about, and you appreciate what the organization as a whole does for veterans. Our members are getting older and we need young veterans to get active,” he said.
North Branch Legion is a busy place and there’s plenty to do. It has hosted national and statewide organizational events and the building serves as a public hub for area organizations. Every mid-summer, it pulls together parade units, dances, bingo, music, the carnival and vendors for everybody to enjoy like clockwork.
As far as the MidSummer agenda goes -- there will be no royalty or “ambassador” program offered this year. A Coach purse Bingo is being held this weekend, before the dance under the tent. Hals said they did a purse Bingo once before with seating designated for 250 and 249 player spots filled immediately.
New thrill rides are coming with the MidSummer Days carnival this year. The carnival sets-up in Central Park on the main street.
And, watch for details on a public Veterans’ Memorial, planned for near the high school. Veterans are meeting as development stages get finalized with North Branch Schools.
Hals asks everybody to look for the special caterer food wagon doing fundraising for the new memorial, with proceeds from the food sales during MidSummer Days going directly to the memorial project.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.