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Dahlins named to North Dakota Goose Hunters Hall of Fame

Having been involved in numerous aspects and activities of the GooseFest for more years than they can remember, Mardell and Jeff Dahlin personify the popular festival held every October in Kenmare.

10/15/14 (Wed)

By Marvin Baker

Having been involved in numerous aspects and activities of the GooseFest for more years than they can remember, Mardell and Jeff Dahlin personify the popular festival held every October in Kenmare.

Perhaps that’s why the Dahlins have been chosen this year’s inductees to the Goose Hunters Hall of Fame, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.

Humbled by their nomination, the Dahlins said they didn’t know they were selected and only recently learned they were nominated for the Hall of Fame.

“We’re definitely honored to be part of it,” Jeff Dahlin said of the Hall of Fame. “Our daughter and son-in-law Jocelyn and Brock Braun nominated us.”

The Dahlins have busy careers to begin with, but they’ve somehow found a way to always take part in GooseFest whether it was an elected post or as volunteers to help make sure the celebration succeeds.

The Dahlins reflected on their “second careers”. Mardy said she began her affiliation singing, acting and wearing hunting gear in a group called the “Goosettes.”

Jeff said he started out as a bird checker.

Neither, however, could remember exactly when they got started.

“We have been involved in GooseFest a lot of years,” Mardy said.

Jeff added, “We have been secretaries for 10 years.”

Jeff recalled they catered GooseFest meals and sometime later were asked to be secretaries for the festival.

“And things just kind of evolved from there,” Mardy said.

This is the first year in many that the Dahlins haven’t volunteered for a post, coincidentally, it is their year to shine in the spotlight.

But in the true spirit of GooseFest, the Dahlins will step back into the arena if and when they are called upon.

“I guess we’re there if we’re needed,” Mardy said.

Jeff added, “GooseFest is good for the community. I’d hate to not see it around. That’s why we’ve always been involved.”

Jeff gave credit to Trevor Melin for stepping up and assuming the secretary duties, a position that involves a lot of behind-the-scenes duties.

“It’s time for the younger generation to step up,” Mardy said. “They sometimes have new visions for this event and that’s good. When young people volunteer, things unfold and it sometimes gets new people involved.”

GooseFest isn’t just a weekend gig. It’s a major tourism attraction in North Dakota that goes on for eight days. It brings people to town from all over the country for a long list of events and is a huge economic engine for the city of Kenmare.

And, according to Jeff, there’s a waiting list every year to get into the big hunt.

When asked how many people attend GooseFest annually, the Dahlins couldn’t provide an exact number but gave their best guess at well over 1,000.

Several events draw hundreds of people including the Hall of Fame banquet, chili cook-off, Goose and Gander social, Art Auction during Hunters Calcutta, the Top Chef Showdown and the big hunt.

Granted, Jeff said many people will attend numerous events and are counted as attendees at each. However, each main event draws good crowds and if you add all the smaller events going on, each one of those adds up over the course of eight days.

“Not enough can be said about the volunteers. If it wasn’t for them...,” Mardy said. “It takes that workforce to make it happen.”

“I’ll say this, the events are always full,” Jeff said.

The Dahlins have also been pleased with how GooseFest once was nothing more than an idea that turned into a weekend of fun and has now morphed into more than a week of “something for everyone.”

But it helps to have the birds migrate over the Kenmare area.

“When I first started hunting with my dad, we used to go to Starkweather to hunt snow geese,” Jeff said.

Mardy said GooseFest leadership has progressively added events to the festival to keep it on the tourism radar screen.

She is especially happy with how GooseFest has included family members and children into the list of activities.

“It’s good to see that family involvement,” she said. “It’s great just to see generations hunting together.”

And some of the long-standing events continue to get bigger and bigger.

Take the chili cook-off for example.

“It used to be just a few tables, then fish houses were added,” Jeff said. “Then we added tents and more tents.”

Jeff and Mardy both agree that GooseFest wouldn’t have turned into the success it has become without the volunteers, including those who will make the Oct. 22 banquet a special event for the Dahlins.

That includes their son-in-law, Brock, who has had a team in the big hunt and is always there to help when it is needed.

“People are so good and so willing to help,” Jeff said. “I love what it does for this community. Kenmare embraces this week-long celebration.”

Even though the Dahlins have stepped away from having an active role in GooseFest, they aren’t sure they want to fade away completely. After all, they’ve played a big role in the success of GooseFest and are being duly honored Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. for their contributions.

“I’d say we’ll stay involved, maybe to sell tickets,” Jeff said.

Mardy added, “Or just help out. There are always things to do.”