Mary Ann Johnson and her late husband Kenneth or “Kenny” both participated in “The Pelan Players,” a group of local talent who staged outdoor dinner theatres in July or August on a platform, or stage, attached to the Soo Line Depot building at Pelan Pioneer Park (located off Highway 11 between Greenbush and Karlstad, Minn.) from 1984 to 1994 and 1997. Kenneth acted in the plays and Mary Ann took on the role of stage manager, sometimes even offering various sound effects, such as “boos” and hisses.”
The whole Johnson family, including their six children at one point, was involved with these plays and the family remained so from the beginning until the end.
“They said it should have been called the Johnson play,” Mary Ann said with a chuckle.
Compared to those earlier years, the park has been quiet recently.
At its last annual meeting on March 13, 2018, the Dewey Township, controlling Pelan Pioneer Park since July 2010, approved allowing Glen Brazier to have all the Pelan Pioneer Park buildings moved from their current site to Wagon Wheel Ridge, home of the country music festival Kick’n Up Kountry, located about a mile west of Karlstad off Highway 11. A couple weeks ago, crews began jacking up the buildings, beginning the journey to their new home.
Dewey Township Clerk Kurt Stenberg said the township decided to do this for one main reason– these buildings were not getting used and in turn were deteriorating.
“We figure ‘why not?’ The buildings will get some use,” Stenberg said.
As these buildings continue to be moved off their foundations and eventually carried to their new homes, The Tribune decided to take this time to look back at some of the site’s history—even before these buildings came to reside there. It includes events that took place out there, ones that brought in hundreds and even thousands of people, and the memories from a local who spent much time out there—Mary Ann Johnson.
To see the full story, read the April 4 issue of The Tribune, or to see part one of the story, read the April 5 issue of The North Star News, either in print or online. Watch for another update on these buildings in both papers, as well part two of this story in next week’s issue of The North Star News.