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Carlson Legacy Continues

By Staff | Jun 11, 2015

Ashley Burkhartsmeier/PCT The Mark Carlson memorial sits near the gazebo in Ellery Park in honor of his contributions.

The 20th season of Music in the Park performances began, and a legacy continued Wednesday at Ellery Park in Rugby.

Minot artist Melissa Spelchen played under the Mark L. Carlson Gazebo to an area crowd.

In his time in Rugby, Carlson was a member of the Rugby Lions Club, in which he served as president, zone chairman, district governor and “tail twister” and won several club awards, including the Melvin Jones Fellowship award (one of the Lions’ highest honors). He also served on the Greater Rugby Area Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors, as president and a director of the Geographical Center Chamber of Commerce, Pierce County Fair, Pierce County Spelling Bee, the N.D. District Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Communications Committee, Pierce County Rural Water Association, chairman of the St. Paul Lutheran Church congregation, UND Presidents Club, Geographical Center Museum board of directors, as president of the N.D. Newspaper Association. He also won several other awards, including an Outstanding Young Businessperson award from the Rugby Jaycees, an N.D. Centennial Tree Commission Tree Award and the N.D. Community Leadership Award.

He was also the editor/publisher of the Pierce County Tribune, purchasing it from Frank & Catharine Hornstein in 1982.

Carlson never saw a performance in the gazebo that bears his name. He died March 9, 1996, at the age of 43.



According to Lions Club member, and former mayor/alderman Dale Niewoehner, Carlson came up with the gazebo, and Music in the Park by extension.

“It was Mark’s dream/idea to have some kind of music or concert in the park on a regular basis in the summer,” Niewoehner said in an email to the Tribune. “So he thought that if the Lions Club were to build a gazebo, this would spark the rest of the idea.”

Construction of the gazebo began in the summer of 1995, with Rugby Welding building the lower half and the Lions club building the roof under Carlson’s direction.

Niewoehner said construction wasn’t without difficulty.

“We had a heck of a time with the rafters since we hadn’t calculated quite right, but finally got them to join at the top,” Niewoehner said.

Other difficulties included roof panel boards and shingles.

Niewoehner recalled an exchange during construction between a worker who was on a work release program (referred to as “Jailhouse Bob”) and Carlson.

JB: “We have a problem.”

MC: “What is that?”

JB: “I don’t think that my sentence is long enough to finish this project!”

The ceiling and soffits were finished in the fall of 1995. Electricity and a lion weather vane – which was originally on Carlson’s garage – were installed later.

The first Music in the Park performance under the gazebo took place in June 1996, with Daryl Opstedal, of Rolette, playing accordion.

On October 6, 1996, a rock cairn in front of the gazebo was dedicated in Carlson’s memory.

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