Nelson named as Shanty Days honoree
Mary Nelson won’t be the first person in her family to obtain a key to the city of Algoma; her father, Mahlon Dier, received one about 10 years ago.
“He is a workaholic,” she said. “My brothers and sisters inherited it from him.”
At the Mayor’s Luncheon on Aug. 12, Nelson will be honored for her 29 years as volunteer and chair for many years of the food booths at Shanty Days.
Along the way, she has recruited her children, brothers and sisters, in-laws, and many teenagers and senior citizens to work in the St. Mary’s Food Tent and other booths..
Her efforts have helped raise more than $10,000 a year or $290,000 for capital improvements at St. Mary’s Parochial School.
Mary remembers back to the first year of what would become Shanty Days when it was called “St. Mary’s Ala Carte.”
Nelson said she is proud of all the new foods they introduced to residents and visitors at Shanty Days.
Her tent has offered gyros, Belgian trippe, Shanty chili, healthy tacos and jambalaya, fruit cups, pasta salad with veggies. and food brought in by other groups such as, funnel cakes and chicken on a stick from Louisiana.
“The rule was three times and you were out,” she said, meaning that if the food didn’t sell well after three years it was discontinued.
After one hectic year she decided it was time to retire from her volunteer role at Shanty Days.
“But after they had a party for me and gave me all these gifts, I decided to go back,” she said.
Nelson said the best part of her role has been meeting the people and making good friends. She has recruited 90-year-old women to peel carrots for her pasta salad and taught young people the fun of volunteering.
“I have had 10-year-old kids and 100-year-olds helping out with the food,” she said..
“We always have fun,” she said, noting that it rarely gets hot along the lake shore. “Good Old Lake Michigan takes care of us pretty good.”
Nelson has lived in Algoma her whole life, attended St. Mary’s Parochial School and graduated from Algoma High School in 1967.
She said that Shanty Days has become a reunion weekend for many in the city. College kids return to help out in the tent, and people schedule family reunions so everyone can come home to celebrate Algoma, she said.
She also recruits her two daughters, who live in Green Bay, and her one son to help as well as her five grandchildren. Her husband, Roger, who has a garden at home grows many of the vegetables for the pasta salad and other dishes, she said. Her cousin, Jim Dier, even slept in the tent in the early years.
Her parents will be at the luncheon when Mayor Wayne Schmidt gives her the key.
“Wayne and I grew up in the same neighborhood,” she said.
“It’s great to honor someone who gives back to the community as a volunteer,” Schmidt said. “I’ll have some good stories to tell about Mary and so will a few other people.”
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Nelson named as Shanty Days honoree