Weather Forecast


Celebrating 100 years of service

Volunteer Wanamingo firefighters pose in front of firetrucks in a photo from the late 1940s. The department now has a fleet of fire and rescue vehicles housed at Station Number 3 on Main Street. (photo courtesy Gary Bakko)

WANAMINGO -- A good reputation is something that has to be earned. For the Wanamingo Fire Department, its reputation was built on a century of service by scores of volunteer firefighters.

Founded in 1913, the Wanamingo Fire Department celebrates its 100-year anniversary this year. The department will commemorate the milestone at its annual Benefit Dance Wednesday July 3 at the fire station on Main Street.

The event kicks off 6 p.m. with dinner for the first 400 ticket holders. The menu will include pork loin and beef brisket from Wanamingo Meats and Catering -- a favorite eating spot for many of the firefighters -- located conveniently across the street from the station.

Live music from area band Ray Sands and The Polka Dots goes 6-8 p.m., followed by Wisconsin rockers StilettO.

Wanamingo-based country group Lost Highway closes the night with a set 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

"We have a huge turnout for the dance every year," said Carl Majerus, a 12-year veteran with the department. He added that it is great to see such strong support from the community.

The Wanamingo Firefighters Relief Association will be collecting donations throughout the night to help update and maintain the department's gear.

Community donations have been "vital" to supporting the Wanamingo first responder team, the department said. Just last year, first responders were called to 145 incidents, including crashes, farm accidents and medical emergencies.

"We do give back to the community as well," said Chief Scott Goodman. The Relief Association traditionally helps pay for the city's yearly Fourth of July fireworks display, he said.

For additional food options Wednesday, Wanamingo Lions will sell popcorn during the dance, and the Kenyon-Wanamingo Wrestling Boosters will sell hot dogs and brats in the evening.

The dance also marks the 12th anniversary of the department's relocation to the Station Number 3 building at the north end of town.

Doors open at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $10 for everyone 16 and older; $5 for kids seven to 15; and free for anyone under six. No one under 18 will be allowed after 10 p.m.

100-year legacy

Wanamingo has grown considerably since the area was first platted in 1907. Through most of that history, the Wanamingo Fire Department has grown along with it.

With a garage full of vehicles and the latest firefighting gear, today's 29-member department is a marked improvement over its humble beginnings.

"Like almost every community of this size, a lot of those (early department) members lacked safety knowledge," said Gary Bakko, a member of the Wanamingo Historical Society and former volunteer firefighter for 18 years.

Bakko said Wanamingo's first major fire, a 1923 arson blaze that destroyed several business along Main Street, showed the fire department's limitations.

"They were only around for about 10 years by then" Bakko said. "They weren't much more of an improvement over a bucket brigade."

Starting in the 1970s, the department began to modernize with formal safety instruction and training. Now it has become a respected member of Goodhue County's emergency management system.

"These guys are dedicated," said Deb Davisson, an instructor with Southeast Minnesota Emergency Medical Services. She has been working with the department to train its first responders.

"They have the credibility of the surrounding area," Davisson said. "Whether it's the Mayo One helicopter flight crew or EMS services, they know that what (Wanamingo first responders) report is what they're going to see."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875