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Norm and Shirley Rehder are this year's Grand Marshals for the Pepper Fest Parade. The Rehders have lived in North Hudson for 34 years. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

Rehders are Pepper Fest Parade Grand Marshals

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Norm and Shirley Rehder have connections to North Hudson that go all the way back to their wedding day. As luck would have it, the couple was kidnapped after their ceremony and hauled to the Mallalieu Inn. Each was handcuffed to someone else and then the handcuff key broke off, leaving Shirley handcuffed to Norm's cousin.

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Of course the incident was duly recorded by Willis Miller in his Hudson Star-Observer column, Along Our Street, as he happened to be at the inn and witnessed the whole incident.

"It was so embarrassing," said Shirley, but it was the start of their long marriage, the last 34 years of it spent in North Hudson, as Pepper Fest fans and volunteers.

The Rehders, Norm from Houlton and Shirley from Red Wing (originally) went on to live on First Street in Hudson for 12 years before moving to North Hudson. Shirley's dad worked for Claire Erickson at his first gas station in Red Wing. It was his transfer to work in the home office of Erickson Oil that brought Shirley to Hudson in 1961.

"The first year we moved to North Hudson our daughter Debbie was a Pepper Princess," said Shirley. Being part of the royal family in 1976-77 was not as big of a time commitment for parents as it is today. Debbie shared the princess duties with her childhood friend from First Street, Jeanne Rouleau, and the king was the Rehders' new North Hudson neighbor Tony Zappa. Jill Johnson was the queen that year.

"When Deb was princess was when we got involved," said Shirley. "We have loved Pepper Fest ever since."

Norm was an electronic technician specializing in television repair, working at Palmer's TV and later working at shops in the Twin Cities area. Shirley worked in the medical field with Family Practice, continuing with Hudson Physicians when the clinics combined.

Now they are both retired. However, retirement has not slowed them down.

Norm was a volunteer instructor at the Hudson Rod and Gun Club in his younger years.

After 1977 the Rehders never missed a Pepper Fest.

"The food and the camaraderie is great," said Norm. "You get to see everybody there. It is just a good get-together. I really enjoy Pepper Fest to tell you the truth."

When the Rehders started to volunteer with the Hudson Senior Center, they became more involved with Pepper Fest as volunteers.

They have volunteered for over a decade with the Hudson Senior Center.

Norm was on the board of directors and treasurer for 12 years as well as an AARP tax consultant for seniors while Shirley volunteers packaging the meals for home delivery and Day Away Care.

For years Norm has been the energy behind signing up seniors, including his wife Shirley, to bake for the dessert booth at Pepper Fest. On Wednesday morning she, along with other friends, was busy making a supply of pizzelles (an Italian dessert) for this weekend.

"It (Pepper Fest) is a great time because the money is distributed to so many groups," said Shirley. "It brings a lot of old timers back to. We always buy extra food tickets. We love the food so much, sometimes, we bring an order or two home just so we can enjoy it longer."

This Saturday, the Rehders will don their Pepper Fest shirts and necklaces as they are honored in the parade.

"It is a great honor," said Norm, of being selected as the Grand Marshals.

"It still gives me goose bumps when I think about it," said Shirley.

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