Peg Rasmussen to lead Hamel Road Parade on July 9 in Hamel

Peg Rasmussen, owner of Peg’s Countryside Café, will serve as Grand Marshal of the Hamel Rodeo Parade, beginning at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 9. The parade will cruise along Hamel Road in uptown Hamel. Above, Rasmussen prepares a table for an incoming guest at her café. (Photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Food will be involved when Peg Rasmussen, owner of Peg’s Countryside Café in Medina, leads off the Hamel Rodeo Parade, at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 9.

Will bystanders get cookies, or something else? Rasmussen invites people to come and be surprised. The parade will travel along Hamel Road in uptown Hamel.

The Parade Committee has named her Grand Marshal of the Rodeo Parade, in honor of her café’s 42nd year in business at 714 Highway 55, Medina.

The Hamel Rodeo Parade will be one of the final events of Rodeo weekend. The Hamel Rodeo will return to Corcoran Lion’s Park, 19101 County Road 10, for its 37th year, with performances July 6 through July 9.

CAFÉ ARRIVED IN 1975

Rasmussen sees her café as a community business. She gets to do the things she loves through it.

Prior to founding Countryside Café, she worked with delinquent children at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Minneapolis. She built her food establishment on Highway 55 in 1975, when not much else was around. McDonald’s arrived at about the same time.

Then she set about developing a restaurant that she wanted the community to see as a gathering place, where hospitality goes hand in hand with food. She began a career of supporting local groups, such as the Hamel Rodeo and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. Among other things, she has served as chair of the Twinwest Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Wayzata Community Education Board, a Golden Valley Planning Commissioner and president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association.

Rasmussen is especially proud of being named to the Minnesota Restaurant Association Hall of Fame.

FORMING A BOND WITH COMMUNITY

In the early days of her business, the Hamel Rodeo Parade Committee gave her a boost by naming her as Parade Grand Marshal. She handed out cookies to people along the parade route.

As people discovered Countryside Café, diners from all walks of life started to show up. Cowboys and cowgirls from the rodeo sat alongside people from the Medina horse community, farmers, lawyers and parents and kids from families new to the community. When kids grew up, they brought in their kids.

And diners did and still do interact with each other — no matter their income level or what they do for a living.

Rasmussen tries to keep her prices low so they are affordable to the many young families who move into the area. “We use good ingredients,” she said. “We do not shirk on ingredients or portion sizes.”

She considers her restaurant to be “a part of real Minnesota,” with a homey exterior and blooms in window boxes to draw people in.

The community has returned Rasmussen’s caring and concern.

One day a fire closed down the Countryside Café kitchen. The Hamel Fire Department responded to put out the fire and save the rest of the café.

Some of the firefighters happened to be in the construction business. When Rasmussen arrived for work the next day, they had returned to rebuild the kitchen and get her establishment back in business.

“We’re still a really cohesive community,” Rasmussen said. “That’s why people move in.”

SECOND TIME AROUND

Rasmussen said her second time around as Parade Grand Marshal will be different. This is her chance to give back to the community that supported her.

“I am delighted with being chosen as Grand Marshal,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing a lot of cowboys and cowgirls and celebrating the rodeo.”

Even after being in business for 42 years, she has no plans to retire. “When you have a lot of variety in your work and get to choose what you do, it would be hard to leave. This is such a social job. I am not ready to retire.”

VOLUNTEER GROUP EFFORT

Volunteers from five area non-profit groups organize the Hamel Rodeo, split the proceeds and use them to support community service projects. The five groups are the Hamel Volunteer Fire Department, Hamel Lions Club, Heinzen-Ditter VFW Post, John Pohlker American Legion Post 394 and the Lord of Life Military Family Support Ministry.

RODEO SCHEDULE

Hamel Rodeo performances will be at 7:30 p.m. each day, Thursday, July 6 through Sunday, July 9. A Family Day matinee is scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 8. Tickets start at $9 and are for sale online at HamelRodeo.org, at the Farmers State Bank of Hamel, at Pleasant Hills Saddle Shops, and at the gate.

Kids will be offered free pony rides from 6 to 7:30 p.m. each day and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday during Family Day. Also during Family Day, kids will be offered the chance to participate in stick horse races and a calf scramble.

Inn Kahoots, located on Hamel Road in Hamel, will host dances under the stars after rodeo performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Bearers of Hamel Rodeo buttons will pay $5 off of the price of admission.

The Hamel Lions will sponsor a flea market on Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Medina Entertainment Center, 500 Highway 55, Medina.