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Bakkes selected as grand marshals


Fri, Jul 25th, 2014
Posted in Lanesboro Features

Duane Bakke

Duane and Angel Bakke of Lanesboro, Minn. have been chosen as the Grand Marshals for the 2014 Buffalo Bill Days in Lanesboro and look forward to the annual celebration which will include the couple riding in the Buffalo Bill Days parade on Sunday, August 4, 2014.

Duane grew up in Lanesboro and graduated from Lanesboro High School in 1972. He then attended college at the University of Minnesota which explains his and his wife’s passion and loyalty to the Minnesota Gophers. After finishing college Duane moved back to the area and married Angel in 1977. The couple then began farming and raising a family in rural Lanesboro.

Having been a softball player from a young age and managing the Lanesboro Softball League for years, Duane took on the challenge of running the Buffalo Bill Days Softball Tournament since the inception of Buffalo Bills Days and he has continued spearheading the tournament for the last 30 years with no plans to stop anytime soon. The softball tournament during Buffalo Bill Days is the most successful tournament in the area in large part due to Duane’s hard work and dedication.

Not only has Duane organized the Buffalo Bill Days Softball Tournament by himself ,every year he has also been in charge of many other tournaments over the years including Trout Days in Preston, Minn., Memorial Day and Labor Day tournaments in Lanesboro, Trail Days in Fountain, Minn., and other tournaments. He credits volunteers that have helped him with the concession stand and maintaining the field with the success of the tournaments he has managed. There was a time when Duane was running six different tournaments a year.

Bakke has spent countless hours over the years recruiting teams, making brackets, scheduling games, and managing the tournaments. Duane has kept notebooks with information about softball each year since 1984. While looking through the notebooks and reminiscing he sees the names of players whose grandchildren are now playing softball. Duane states he “has the history of Lanesboro softball” in the notebooks he keeps.

Duane gives credit to Allen and Lilah Ellingson, Bill Hanson, Jim and Charolyn Hanson, Allen Holland, Hans and Mike Torgerson, and others from Lanesboro for taking the initiative in 1978 to have the old baseball field in Lanesboro re-done and turned into a softball field. He said, “People may remember me running softball but there wouldn’t be anything there if they hadn’t pushed to have the field fixed up.”

In 1984, the first year of Buffalo Bill Days, Duane had 21 teams in the softball tournament making it one of the largest in the area. Duane said that the reason he got so many teams the very first year was because he put them in two divisions, one division for teams who played consistently on weekends, and another for teams who played rarely. This keeps things even for the different levels of talent.

This tournament was part of the huge success of Buffalo Bill Days from the beginning and kept building to as many as 48 teams in three divisions from 1998 to 2008 and he was turning away teams as there was not enough field space even with teams playing in Lanesboro, Fountain, two fields in Preston, and a few games played in Whalan, Minn. In those days there were not cell phones and email yet so Duane would spent many hours on the telephone communicating with different teams and would then receive a large phone bill due to all of the phone calls made and Angel would answer phone calls from teams and give the messages to Duane when he returned home.

This year’s Buffalo Bill Days Softball Tournament will have approximately 32 teams and the games will be played in Lanesboro, Fountain, and for the first time, Peterson, Minn. as well. With this many teams the tournament is sure to be another successful and enjoyable one this year as it has been since Buffalo Bill Days began 30 years ago.

Besides visiting the beautiful town of Lanesboro and playing their favorite sport many teams come to Lanesboro for the tournament because Duane puts all of the money collected from the teams back into the tournament in the form of prize money for the winning teams and always pays six teams in each division, which is more than most tournaments. Duane makes no profit from all of the work he does for the tournament.

Participating teams come from all over to play in the Buffalo Bill Days tournament including a team from Nebraska that has been playing in the tournament since 1996. Another team from the Blue Earth, Minn./Spencer, Iowa area has been coming every year since 1998. These teams have ties to the area which is how they came to start playing in the Buffalo Bill Days Tournament. Other teams travel from the Twin Cities area, Rochester, Austin, Caledonia, as well as other towns. And, of course, there are also many local teams who get involved in their backyard tournament.

Duane said that the first weekend of August is the perfect weekend to hold Buffalo Bill Days and it helps make everything successful in Lanesboro. He is able to get teams involved that would not be able to participate if the tournament were held on a different weekend. In order to have a successful tournament you have to contact the teams explained Duane and notes that the reputation of the tournament keeps teams coming to Lanesboro.

In 1998, Duane became a Fillmore County Commissioner to further serve the area. He works several hours a week and puts in a lot of time in this position. He has also been involved at the district and state level and was the State President of the Association of Counties in 2011.

He describes county government as the “local arm of state government” and he currently sits on approximately 18 committees in conjunction with being a county commissioner.

Duane and Angel continue farming on 650 acres growing corn and soybeans, and 600 more acres of custom planting and combining along with their other obligations. Angel has also worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for 39 years as a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

The couple have two children including daughter Jade, who is married to Brett Grabau, lives in Preston and has a 17 month old son, Easton. Their son Nick and his wife, Katie, live in Cashton, Wis.

Running the softball tournament during Buffalo Bill Days is rewarding said Duane even though he is the first one at the softball field each morning and the last to leave in the evening after dragging the field it is still something he really enjoys. He keeps himself accessible during the weekend to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible and stated that being organized makes everything fall into place.

The Bakkes stated that being asked to be Grand Marshals is quite an honor and they look forward to the parade. Duane stated that small town celebrations would not happen if not for the volunteers and Lanesboro is lucky to have Duane as one of the many volunteers who spend many hours to make Buffalo Bill Days the success that it has become and continues to be.

Although most years Duane does not get out of the softball field very often during Buffalo Bill Days this year he and his wife will have the opportunity to enjoy the parade from a great vantage point as Grand Marshals. After the many years and endless hours Duane has volunteered for the City of Lanesboro the city has found a way to say thank you and give the Bakkes the recognition they deserve.

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