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Vulcanus Rex reigns from Hudson

Tami, Dave and their daughter Andrea celebrate at the Victory Dance. Photo submitted1 / 2
Every Fire King has a button announcing his selection. This one was designed from a photo of the annual bonfire held at Johnson's house. The V is actually part of the fire and it stands for Vulcan.2 / 2

It was the summer of 1995, Andrea Johnson was a candidate for the North Hudson Pepper Fest court. Little did her parents, Dave and Tami, realize that it was a pivotal moment in their lives as well. Andrea earned a spot on the court as one of the princesses, which meant Dave and Tami would spend the next 12 months on the road nearly every weekend, assisting with the float. During this time, the Johnsons were introduced to the St. Paul Winter Carnival Royalty and their rivals the Vulcans.

"That is when our circle of friends literally exploded," said Johnson.

"The Pepper Fest has a good reputation with the St. Paul Winter Carnival," said Johnson. "There is something magical that happens in that one block area, that sets Pepper Fest apart. One of things that makes them different is that they have a king."

Soon Tami would become a Pepper Fest board member, in 2002 Dave would be selected to be one of the Vulcan Krewe, the Duke of Klinker and in 2004 Dave would be chosen to serve as the Pepper King.

During last month's St. Paul Winter Carnival it was revealed that Dave was selected as to be Vulcanus Rex LXXIII, (the 73rd) more formally known as the One True King of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and Fire King for the Year of Our Lord 2010.

"It is an application process much like what I did in 2001 to become a Vulcan," said Johnson. It includes a full background check and an intensive interview. Vulcanus Rex or the Fire King reigns for one year with seven new members of the Vulcan Krewe. "It is quite rigorous and the vote has to be unanimous."

"I hope to bring more of a Wisconsin flavor to the position," said Johnson, the first Fire King to reside in Wisconsin. "There have only been two Vulcans in the history of the group that have lived in Wisconsin."

In 2002, while a member of the Vulcan Krewe, the Johnsons traveled to 84 events from Florida to Winnipeg. This year they expect to do more of the same.

"It is more of a case of street theatre," said Johnson, regarding the traditional Vulcan antics played out in parades around the region. "We've been around for 124 years so we have to be doing something right."

According to Johnson and the Vulcan Web site, The Vulcan Krewe is selected by the Order of Fire and Brimstone along with the new Fire King, Vulcanus Rex, each year. Each year a new Krewe is hand selected through an application and interview process. Selected Krewe members must complete a five-year commitment to become a full-fledged member of Fire and Brimstone. After a member's fifth year, that individual is then eligible to be a Fire King.

Krewe members must complete the following five tasks during that time: the first year they are on the street; second, they help the new Krewe; third, they have to design and sell new promotional items; fourth, they organize and participate in fundraising; and fifth, they plan the annual victory dance.

"There is a lot more to this than what people see from the street," said Johnson. The parent organization the Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone has been incorporated since 1958 and recently became a 5013C -- not for profit organization.

"Tami has been fully supportive," said Johnson, who admits his 10-year-old boat only has about 400 hours on it. "We still love to boat..."

"We enjoy the whole Vulcan organization and the things they do for the community," said Tami. "It is an honor to step into this post and give back to the communities when we can."

When asked why he chose to get involved, Johnson responded with 'Why not?'

"It is another of life's experiences," said Johnson. "Sometimes you can't explain things with a short sound bite."

"I just made seven new friends," said Johnson of his Vulcan Krewe. Friendship seems to be one of the driving factors, a camaraderie shared with 250 members of the Imperial Order of the Fire and Brimstone, not to mention the friendships formed far and wide by traveling to other festivals.

Johnson is the national technical manager for Separators Inc., an Indianapolis firm. He and Tami grew up in Minnesota, married in 1973 and moved to Hudson from Chicago in 1991 when he took a position with what was Niro Atomizer. They have two daughters, Andrea and Kristi.

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