By Caroline Downs
Note: No photo of the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees was available at press time, but one will be added as soon as the Holmes party poses for our camera!! Check back later....
The 2010 inductees to the North Dakota Snow Goose Hunters Hall of Fame at the Kenmare GooseFest have been coming to this area to hunt waterfowl and upland game for more than 30 years.
And the people in the Kenmare area keep the Holmes party coming back just as much as the birds do.
Russ Holmes, his sons Jon Holmes and Nick Holmes, and family friend Chuck Alsdorf were nominated for GooseFest Hall of Fame recognition by Trevor Melin and Ron Jensen of Kenmare. The Holmes party is known for their devotion to hunting as well as for their genuine interest in and contributions to the community and the Kenmare Fire Department.
“We’ve met so many people over the years,” said Jon Holmes, public service supervisor for the city of Anoka, Minnesota, and assistant fire chief for the Anoka-Champlin Fire Department. “And they welcome us with open arms.”
Russ Holmes, also of Anoka and now 80 years old, started coming to the Kenmare area with Jon for a week of bird hunting each fall after Russ struck up a friendship with Bowbells resident and fellow insurance agent Allen Ryberg. That first hunt was 32 years ago.
Nick, of Andover, Minnesota, who works for North Country Ford and as a park ranger for the city of Anoka, doesn’t have quite as many memories of hunting in Kenmare. “Subtract four years for me,” he said. “I was still in school when Dad and Jon started going out there.”
Once he joined Russ and Jon, however, Nick was hooked. “That town is so nice to us,” he said. “The hospitality there is so great. We’re treated just like family.”
Family friend Chuck Alsdorf of Homosassa, Florida, and vice president of a printing and marketing operation, also joined the group about that time, and a tradition was born: every year, the four men would spend a week hunting ducks, geese, pheasants and grouse in Kenmare, North Dakota.
The group has a long-standing reservation at the San Way Ve Motel. They have their favorite places to visit in town and meet up with other hunters, although they were sad when they heard about the loss of Danny’s Bar & Grill to fire last November.
According to Nick, each member of the group plays a role in the week’s hunt. “I’ve got to buy all the food and the beer,” he said. “I’m the cook. I’m the one who gets up first to get the coffee going and fix bacon and eggs for those guys.”
Chuck washes dishes and Jon handles the bird cleaning duties each day. “Everybody’s got a little part,” said Nick. He paused and laughed before he added, “I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it!”
“I look forward to this time of year every year, to going out there,” said Jon, who admitted on Monday he was already packing for the trip although the group wouldn’t leave for another week.
And for 2010, the Holmes party is extending their season in North Dakota. “We’re coming for two weeks this time,” Jon said. “We never get time to come back out if we split our seasons, even though we always say we’re going to. Now, we said we’re going to come and stay and have fun!”
Nick was also looking forward to the longer hunting vacation. “We’ll be staying more days, so we can do more with GooseFest, too,” he said, adding that the men wanted to take in the clay shoot and a few other events during this trip. “This could be one of our best years out there. And hopefully, the birds will start moving!”
Hunting is simply in the fabric of the Holmes’ family life. “I started hunting with my dad and my grandfather when I was old enough to carry a gun,” Jon said. “Dad and I have been hunting together a good number of years.”
“We just followed in Dad’s footsteps, and we were fortunate because Dad knew so many people who had places we could go hunting,” said Nick. Then he laughed again. “And it was a way of getting out of church on Sunday mornings. We didn’t have to dress up for that. My mom and sister would go to church and we’d get to go hunting.”
Russ began hunting with his own father, who lived in Miles City, Montana. Nick recalled family trips out there as a boy where he and Jon joined their grandfather in deer and antelope hunts.
Lately, Russ has filled the grandfather’s role himself as Nick’s son Travis, 18, joins the men on their Kenmare trips. “He has to bring school with him,” Nick said.
“Travis has been coming for four or five years,” added Jon. “He’s going to hold up the tradition once we can’t hunt anymore.”
Kenmare friends lead to
fire department donations
While the Holmes party enjoys their time in the field, they also value the friendships they’ve made with residents in and around Kenmare. “I look forward to associating with all the people,” Jon said. “It’s just nice to go out and see everybody.”
Some of those friendships have led to deeper ties with the community.
Jon admitted that for the first 20 years he hunted in the Kenmare area, he considered himself on vacation, so he didn’t visit the fire hall or seek out other firefighters, even though he was a devoted firefighter like Russ, who retired his gear after 33 years with the Anoka-Champlin department.
“Then I got associated with Trevor [Melin], Mitch [Duerre] and Ron [Jensen], and that’s how it all started,” said Jon. “The fire department has always been a brotherhood.”
Conversations naturally revolved around similarities and differences between the Kenmare and the Anoka-Champlin departments, as well as the Kenmare department’s efforts to build a new fire hall.
Before long, Jon was arranging donations of much-needed equipment to the Kenmare department, beginning with a box of used pass detectors in 2007. The electronic units signal when a firefighter is down or motionless from injury or smoke inhalation, and the Kenmare department didn’t have any at the time.
The next year, when Jon packed his truck for the annual hunting trip, he happened to throw in some used extrication equipment, or “Jaws of Life,” and all the accessories to go with it. The Kenmare Fire Department had none of that gear at the time, relying on departments 20 miles away if it was needed for emergency responses.
To purchase the equipment new would have cost the Kenmare department approximately $50,000. Jon shrugged off his efforts, referring instead to the budgets and resources of the Anoka-Champlin and other fire departments in his area. “We’re always replacing things,” he said.
Last spring, Jon helped arrange for the purchase of a used tanker truck sold by a fire department in a district near Anoka, and then took a day off work to host Trevor Melin and Mitch Duerre’s visit to pick up the truck. The truck, although over 20 years old, proved to be in excellent condition and was offered at a bargain to the Kenmare department.
“When they saw that tanker truck, they just about hit the floor,” Jon said, laughing. “And I’ve had my eyes open for other things they need out there. When other departments announce they’re replacing things, I tell them I know somebody who can use that.”
Despite saving the Kenmare Fire Department nearly $100,000 in gear and vehicles over the years, Jon doesn’t like to take any credit for his assistance. “We’re always here to help,” he said.
“We appreciate the things they do for us,” added Nick, “and they appreciate what we do for them.”
The Holmes party also appreciates landowners around the Kenmare area and their friendly attitudes. “The landowners are so generous to us as far as letting us hunt,” Jon said.
As one of those landowners, Trevor Melin described the Holmes group as welcome examples of model hunters, even to the point of hauling garbage and spent shell cartridges left behind by other hunters and discovered after a day in the field.
“They’re an example of what hunters should be, and more,” said Ron Jensen, adding that Jon follows events in the Kenmare community throughout the year with The Kenmare News website.
Jon laughed as he talked about Trevor’s recent phone call to him, inviting the group to the GooseFest to be honored as the Hall of Fame inductees. “I told him, ‘So you mean I’ve got to take a day off of hunting to come in for that?’” Jon said, adding that he and the rest of his group were excited about the event.
Nick agreed, saying that one of the main purposes of the annual hunting trip was to relax. “Like my dad always says, if we shoot another bird, that’s a plus,” he said.
The group will load their gear and the Labrador retrievers Dakota and Seven, also longtime companions, this weekend. Their sights will be set for Kenmare on Monday.
“I’ll buy the groceries Sunday and then I’ll be raring to go,” Nick said. “We’ll be out there with smiles, I’ll guarantee you that!”
Russ Holmes, Jon Holmes, Nick Holmes and Chuck Alsdorf will be recognized as the 2010 North Dakota Snow Goose Hunters Hall of Fame inductees on Wednesday, October 20th, following the Wild Game Feed at the Kenmare Memorial Hall. Everyone is invited to attend this event, which begins at 6 pm. Beth Dennison, Miss North Dakota 2011, will also speak during the evening.