Monticello Riverfest Committee members remember Roger Belsaas

Throughout its history, the Monticello Riverfest Committee has relied on a dedicated group of local volunteers who work long hours so others can have fun.

And like most communities, when a well-remembered member leaves the group, there are plenty of warm memories to help fill the void the person leaves.

Each year, the Monticello Times asks Riverfest Committee members to provide story ideas for a special section. This year when asked, Roger Belsaas’ name and his Riverfest accomplishments were recalled almost immediately.

Mick Maher, Monticello Lions and Riverfest Committee member, said Belsaas was a highly active community member. “Roger was a Lions member for more than 30 years,” Maher said. “He was Lions president and Lions treasurer for over 10 years and Lion of the Year.”

Belsaas was a Lions’ Melvin Jones Fellow and active member in the Sons of the American Legion for almost 10 years and Monticello mayor from 1998 to 2002. Belsaas died in 2007. He was 68.

“Roger was involved in Riverfest from its very beginning in 1976,” Maher said. “He chaired the event several times and was Riverfest treasurer for most of the other years up until is death in 2007.  His wife, Charlene, was co-chair of the Riverfest talent show for more 5 years until her death in 2006.”

According to Maher, for everything he did for Riverfest, the Lions and the community, Belsaas was probably best known for the Riverfest Duck Race and adopting ducks. Lots of ducks.

“The duck race event was started by Riverfest with Wes Olson chairing the event, but we needed to get the word out and adopt 5,000 ducks. This event was something we had never done before,” Maher said. “Roger sat in front of Maus Foods with his card table and duck adoption papers for months preceding the event.”

Belsaas always had ducks with him tucked neatly in his fanny pack, Maher said. “There were many volunteers for the duck race and duck adoptions, and that’s still true today, but it was Roger’s dedicated work and  countless hours that assured us the event was successful those first few years,” Maher said, adding he’s planning on adopting a duck and putting Belsaas’ name on it.

“If if my duck wins, I’m going to give the money back to the community just like Roger did,” he said.

Olson, longtime Riverfest Committee member, said Belsaas was Monticello Citizen of the Year in 2004.  “The first year of The Duck race, we dropped 3,500 ducks. Every year after that we dropped 5,000,” Olson said. “Roger was hell-bent on getting them all adopted.” Olson said, adding Riverfest treasurer was the most difficult job to take over because of Belsaas’ dedication to it.

“There’s much more going on than people realize,” Olson said. “With sorting event cash boxes, making change, depositing and assuring everyone had correct change, he was constantly called upon. Roger rarely complained, and was always dependable. In his day he was Mr. Riverfest!”

Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]