by Nealy corcoran
For three days, residents and visitors get the chance to celebrate rural living, family and fun. For decades the fairgrounds have been a place for neighbors and visitors to enjoy live music, rides, exhibits, a food court, a beer garden, truck and tractor pulls, Coronations and the Osceola Grand Parade.
For this year’s parade, Shirley Johnson will be Grand Marshal.
“This was such a surprise for me,” said Johnson. “I have marched in a lot of parades, but never thought I would be riding in a car. I will have to start practicing my wave,” she said.
Johnson is a long-time resident of Osceola and has served the community in many ways. She was a Speech and English teacher at Osceola High School for 39 years and retired in 2012. “It was such an incredible opportunity to work with students, to see them grow,” she said.
During her time as a teacher, Johnson also coached the track team, worked with the Kids Club, Student Council, the Ski Club and was the Forensics coach, “All of which were such a joy,” she said. “For a lot of students, activities at school is an integral part of education and makes it an interesting growing period for them.”
Retirement didn’t slow her down. Throughout the years Johnson has been an active volunteer within the community. In 2016 she was recognized as Wisconsin Main Street Volunteer of the Year. Following that award, Johnson was honored Volunteer of the Year by the state of Wisconsin for her contributions to the community.
Currently, Johnson is a member of Osceola Trail Coalition and serves as Co-coordinator of Valley Brew Fest, a fundraising event for the Rivertown Trails Coalition. She is also a member of Grow Osceola and a local group that will be updating the Christmas decorations downtown Osceola.
“Trails, flowers and decorations help keep our community beautiful and invite others to explore Osceola and local business, if we can help in that way and bring people back to our community, we are happy to do so.”
For years, Johnson also served as Youth Director for a local church and in recent years joined a local Ukulele group called the Good Neighbor Ukulele Ministry. “We donate our time traveling around Polk County preforming at nursing homes, church services and we even got to play at the Polk County award ceremony.”
According to Johnson, “Our community depends a lot on volunteers. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without the help of other people and volunteers. There are so many wonderful, active people in the community so I feel quite honored and grateful to be Grand Marshal.”