Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Ruth Valgemae

While many communities mark centennials and other city milestones with a special program or exhibit, few have the means to make a year-long celebration out of such occasions. Edina is a conspicuous exception, thanks largely to the efforts of history lovers like Ruth Valgemae.

Valgemae is chair of the Edina Quasquicentennial Committee, an ad hoc board of volunteers dedicated to making the most of the 125th anniversary of Edina’s founding.

“We started out thinking we might do one or two events,” on par with what communities the size of Edina typically orchestrate, Valgemae recalled. However, a groundswell of local interest and support quickly propelled Edina’s quasquicentennial celebration into a league all its own. Valgemae’s committee soon found itself overseeing a full year of activities, anchored by four tent-pole events spaced throughout 2013.

These highlights included a historic homes tour and an innovative photography exhibit that showcased old Edina Historical Society photos in and around the places where they were originally taken. Both programs were well received by the public.

Valgemae’s personal favorite quasquicentennial event to date, though – and the largest one, in terms of scale – was the City’s themed Fourth of July Parade. The annual parade is an important community institution in its own right, but history-themed floats and other quasquicentennial tie-ins added an extra layer to the tradition.

Valgemae will forever treasure memories of traveling down 50th Street in a beautiful vintage horse-drawn buggy. “But the best part was actually after the parade,” she said. Getting the draft horse back to its trailer required backtracking down several residential stretches of road. “Driving down tree-lined streets with beautiful homes and gardens, with everything quiet and peaceful,” it was easy to imagine that the Edina of today is not so far removed from the tranquil farming and mill town of bygone days.

That moment was a welcome respite from an otherwise extraordinarily busy year. Valgemae and her committee are now preparing to cap off the quasquicentennial celebration on Dec. 12 with a unique afternoon program commemorating Founders Day.

“Founders Day is going to be a whirlwind tour de force, with 125 years of Edina's history presented in 45 minutes,” Valgemae explained. A mix of short performances, songs and readings will chronicle key moments from the 1880s all the way up through the present.

This capstone quasquicentennial event will mark the close of Edina’s anniversary celebration, but not the end of Valgemae’s community involvement. Even in a City with a strong tradition of volunteerism and activism, her track record to date is impressive. Valgemae sat for many years on the Edina Art Center Board, and contributes her time and services in support of the Edina Public Art and Film Festival committees.

She is also president of Bark Avenue on Parade, a Twin Cities pet therapy outreach program. “This organization is made up of roughly 50 volunteers and their dogs. They visit hospitals, nursing homes … and even college campuses during finals. Their job is to bring happiness and joy – and do they ever!” Valgemae explained.

These efforts contribute in a big way to Edina’s high standard of living. Perhaps in 2038, when a Sesquicentennial Committee draws up the program for the next big Founders Day show, the efforts of everyday Hometown Heroes like Ruth Valgemae will merit a mention.

15 of 36 Heroes

© 2014 City Of Edina, Minnesota