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A new perspective: Retired chiefs to lead Strawberry Fest parade

The Strawberry Fest parade is always a hit — and this year will have new leaders in Craig Woolery and Bob Byerly. File photo

COTTAGE GROVE — Fire, EMS, police and reserves have long played an important but largely invisible role at Strawberry Fest, but this year it will be front and center.

Strawberry Fest is honoring public safety by making former Public Safety Director Craig Woolery and former Fire Chief Bob Byerly the parade grand marshals.

"We've had a part of the Strawberry Fest parade for years," Woolery said. "(But) usually I'm in the security."

With a combined 44 years of service for the city, the two will have a very different perspective of the parade than they are used to when they come out of retirement for one day to lead it.

"I was surprised that they thought of us to be the grand marshals, and it was very nice of them," Woolery said. "It's been a great community to be a part of."

Retired for five years now, Byerly said he's looking forward to seeing old friends and coworkers, as well as the new Central Fire Station.

"In some ways I miss all the people and the planning and working for the citizens in Cottage Grove, but retirement is good," he said. "It's great that people remembered us."

Though he lives near White Bear Lake now, Byerly is no stranger to Strawberry Fest, once winning a first place Top Chef honor for a strawberry whipped cream dessert.

Strawberry Fest parade is 10:30 a.m. June 16. For more information, visit www.cottagegrovestrawberryfest.com.