Lake Country Faces: Riverside Inn owners in Crosslake named St. Patrick’s Day Parade honorary grand marshals
The annual parade may have ended years ago without Bob and Bonnie Mudek
CROSSLAKE — Bob and Bonnie Mudek, of Crosslake, have supported the Crosslake's St. Patrick's Day Parade since they first opened Riverside Inn in 1978.
Being such important supporters of the parade for so many years, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee agreed to honor Bob and Bonnie at this year's event as honorary parade grand marshals.
Fred Skog, who opened Crosslake Sheet Metal in 1974, the year the parade started, is the grand marshal. Look for a story on Skog in a future Echo Journal.
Before moving to Crosslake, Bonnie Mudek worked at 3M and Bob Mudek worked at Midwest Wine and Liquor. Around 1978, the couple had grown weary of St. Paul, where they lived and were raising a family.
"When we started having kids we wanted to raise them somewhere that wasn't like St. Paul," Bob said. "The east side was starting to change. The schools were busing and the kids were talking back to teachers and they couldn't do anything about it."
"They were talking about busing the kids and we just wanted out of there," Bonnie said. "They were in third, fourth and fifth grade when we came up and now they're in their 50s."
The Mudeks knew they wanted to go into business, but finding something for sale was not an easy task. Property was dear, and business space with living quarters was virtually nonexistent.
When we started having kids we wanted to raise them somewhere that wasn't like St. Paul.
They looked at 10 places before learning about the Riverside Inn, a small establishment built in 1964 in Crosslake.
"We walked in and I said, 'My God, I love it,’" Bob said.
They closed on the property on Aug. 4, 1978. When St. Patrick's Day rolled around on Saturday, March 17, 1979, they were immediately interested in being part of the festivities.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade had only begun a few years earlier, and it looked very different from what it does today.
In the early years, the celebration was part of a "progressive meal" where revelers would progress through the city from business to business, stopping at some and eating part of a whole meal. Appetizers were available at some locations with a main course at another..
"We did it one year as an appetizer," Bonnie said.
The Mudeks became the primary organizers for several years due to debate within the chamber.
Someone had proposed hosting the event on the Saturday nearest to St. Patrick's Day instead of the day itself. The idea was to make the early evening event more accessible to children and families, but some chamber members threatened to boycott one another's businesses in retaliation, so the event nearly ended before it could truly become a tradition.
The Mudeks didn't want to see the fledgling event come to an end.
"We ran it for two years," Bob said. "I had to get permits. Then someone came from the chamber and asked, 'Do you mind if we take it?' and I said, 'Yes, take it back.'"
The parade and festivities have grown since then, and so has Riverside Inn. Much of the building as it stands today was added in 2002. The entire off-sale was limited to a tiny corner of the room, and much of the dining room didn't exist yet.
They somehow managed to provide live music in their limited space, though it soon cost more than it brought in. So the Mudeks used that space for more customers instead.
Back then there wasn't enough room in the kitchen for all their equipment.
"The walk-in cooler and freezer was downstairs," Bob said. "It wasn't worth it."
The additions added a new kitchen with walk-in coolers and freezers, remodeled bathrooms and much more space in general.
"All this made it easier," Bob said.
One of their sons manages Riverside Inn and the other cooks in the kitchen in addition to running his own business.
Between the additional advertisement under the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and the accessibility of the Saturday event schedule, the Crosslake parade is considered one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the state, often mentioned alongside celebrations in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The only thing that irritates me is I'd like to be in (the parade). We used to be in it. The first couple years the Hamm's Beer dealer would have that bear suit and I dressed up in it three years in a row.
It has really grown. Part of that may have been the Saturday scheduling.
"If you have it on a Monday or Wednesday, they aren't going to come out," Bob said. "The kids were just getting home by that time."
"The parade started at 4," Bonnie said."Now the kids can march in the parade. It wasn't a very big day for the town."
The couple was excited when they learned Feb. 8 that they were honorary grand marshals. Unfortunately, dependence on an oxygen tank means Bob won’t be able to ride a parade float.
"The only thing that irritates me is I'd like to be in (the parade)," Bob said. "We used to be in it. The first couple years the Hamm's Beer dealer would have that bear suit and I dressed up in it three years in a row."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com.