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Bruce 125th reunion brings back the 'Bees '

Posted: Thursday, Jul 24th, 2008

Bruce Honey Days is always a bigtime , several-days celebration. This year, it's bigger than ever with a special theme driving the 17th annual gettogether : It's a time to "Come Home to the Hive for 125."

The focus will be on students who attended schools in Bruce making them "Bees" or "Bumblebees" before consolidation brought the schools' closings .

A key planner helping bring it all together is Michael Rentsch, vice president of Bruce's Richland State Bank and chairman of the celebration for the Bruce Community Club.

Explaining this year's theme, he said, "We're all getting invited back for an all-school reunion. The graduates of the high school that closed in 1965 are coming back."

Joining them will be other students who spent any of their school years in Bruce. Rentsch is in that latter group; he went to school through fourth-grade in Bruce before transferring to Sioux Valley in Volga, where he graduated from high school in 1983.

Smiling a bit, he added, "If you went one day, we probably called you. We were looking for connections."

Rentsch, 43, considers himself a Bruce native. He was born in Minnesota, but his parents moved to Bruce when he was 2 years old. Both of his parents attended Bruce High School and had ties to the town. 350 'Bees' expected

About 350 students are expected to come back. Welcoming them will be a mix of the traditional and some new events throughout the festivities that start Thursday (July 24) at 6 p.m. and then go all-day on Friday and Saturday before winding down at 6 p.m. on Sunday. One tradition, which was highlighted at Bruce's diamond and century celebrations, is the beard contest; Rentsch himself looked a bit hirsute. Asked if his facial foliage might be a winner, he smiled, laughed and said, "I made a lot of categorties, so hopefully I can get one, maybe."

Souvenirs celebrating both the present and the good old days will be available in abundance for purchase; other special items will be raffled off. Honey pots on sale

"Honey pots, of course, are more traditional," he said, showing off some that are for sale. "It ties to the graduates, also, with the bees. And honey has been a big part of Bruce for many, many years." The pots were made by David Huebner, of Bushnell Pottery. Rentsch said, "We tried to keep as many things local as we could. We had him make 200 for us. I think we've got about 80 left. They've been selling pretty good."

Also available and in the approach of keeping-it-localwhen-we-can is a print by artist Mary Bjerke, a native of Bruce and Rentsch's cousin. He pointed out that the print's focal point is "the depot,"because "the train tracks kind of started the town."

The print also shows "the school and the churches and the honey," which "have been the major pieces of the town. The print, I think, really signifies what Bruce is for 125 years."

The four days of festivities officially kick off in the Main Street Tent at 6:45 Thursday evening. Fifteen minutes later, the fun starts right there in the tent with the "Queen Bee Contest & Talent Show."

Rentsch explained, "Nine local gentlemen are competing for Mr. Queen Bee. The funny thing is, most of them are in the beard contest, also."

But the judges won't be looking for facial hair in this competition . Talent, swimsuits, evening gowns and questionanswering ability will prevail.

The following three days will be a bit more traditional: the all-school reunion supper at 6 p.m. Friday; a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday; and a Kid's Parade and tractor pull starting at noon Sunday are just a few of the events that make Bruce "a honey of a place to be" each year about this time.

Does a celebration get any better than this?

John Kubal may be reached at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

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