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River Falls Days brings out volunteering passion for this family

Among the many River Falls Days volunteers are the Linehan family: Front, Jaymeson Schommer; second row, from left: Ashelyn Schommer, Tina Linehan, Amanda Linehan, Patsy Linehan, and Steve Linehan; back row, from left: Alan Linehan and Tony Linehan. The Linehans have donated their time since the late 1970s or early 1980s to making the community festival a success.

When River Falls Days kicks off at the end of the week, a small army of volunteers will descend to make the event run smoothly. Among those volunteers will be the Linehan family, Steve and Patsy along with their adult children, Tina, Alan and his wife Amanda, and Tony, all of whom live in the River Falls area.

Patsy and Steve said that they first started volunteering for River Falls Days in the downtown area in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Patsy said that they heard about the volunteer opportunity through work -- both Patsy and Steve have worked in River Falls for many years..

Sometime in the mid-1990’s, Steve said that he and his wife saw the festival heading away from being a family event.

He noted that River Falls Days was becoming mainly just the parade, dances, and demo derby; whereas in the past he said the event featured bike decorating contests and similar family friendly activities.

Steve said that he and Patsy wanted to offer suggestions to make the event more family oriented and met with River Falls Days coordinators. The event planners were keen on their ideas and according to Steve said “knock yourself out.” So began the journey into the extensive volunteering that they do now.

Former River Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO, Roseanne Bump said, “The Linehans, quite frankly, made my job much easier. They were absolutely wonderful to work with during River Falls Days, and the rest of the year, for that matter. Their commitment to getting things done, done right and on time was unwavering.”

When asked why they continue to help year after year, Patsy said, “One of the things that drives us is what we can give back to the community”

“I enjoy when I see people...a family together...laughing and enjoying,” added Patsy, who was raised in the big river area between River Falls, Ellsworth and Prescott.

Steve said: “We were raised in the area, we raised our family here, and we want to give back a little.” He added, that they want to “show-off our great little city.”

“Show people how great River Falls is and give city people a reason to come down,” said Steve, who grew up in River Falls.

Another reason the Linehans stuck with River Falls Days volunteering is, according to Steve, “part of our nature.” He added it was also a great way to teach their kids

“It’s a good thing for kids to see you don’t always have to get paid for work,” said Steve, “ generous with your time.”

When asked about what he has learned from his parents’ volunteering, Alan said. “I know how much work goes into volunteering, but I was also able to see how rewarding it is.”

Both Steve and Patsy said since their kids were little they have been volunteering with mom and dad. “We would find things for them to do,” said Patsy.

Added Tina, “The older we get, the more involved we get…and the more involved we get the more rewarding.”

Patsy and Steve said that daughter, Tina, and son, Alan, along with wife, Amanda are at the event a “good share of the time.”

“All of us getting together and working close together shows how strong of a team -- and family -- we are,” said Tina.

Steve and Patsy said their children help with many things such as: planning, setup, and selling beer. They also mentioned that Tina works other events like Showdown on the Kinni. Son, Tony also contributes to the community event when he is able to.

While Alan and Amanda are very involved, they may at some point take over Patsy and Steve’s duties.

Alan said that when he was younger he shadowed his parents -- hanging signs and moving fences downtown.

He said for the last three years he and his wife have helped set up downtown and worked the entrance gates at the street dance both Friday and Saturday night.

New River Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO, Chris Blasius said: “Patsy has been my ‘lifeline’ since starting at the Chamber (she started in early 2013). There are very few answers to questions that she does not know. If by chance there was something she wasn’t quite sure about, she would call Steve and/or another connection and get back to me with an answer or contact information of someone who would know.”

The Linehans, and Patsy in particular, also volunteer at other Chamber events.

Blasius said, “No matter what Chamber event, whether Showdown on the Kinni, Town ‘N Country Day, or River Falls Days, Patsy and Steve (and most often their children by their side) are there from setup to cleanup. With them always comes a staple gun, duct tape, and extra extension cords just in case ours didn’t “make the trip” to the event or got damaged along the way. They are great mentors to me because of how caring they are and how much they give back to our community.”

Steve foresees them volunteering at River Falls Days indefinitely. “As long as we are able to, we will be volunteering in some shape or form with River Falls Days,” he said.

With all the work they put in over the four days, one would think they don’t get to see or do much, but Steve said that is not so.

He said they can watch the parade and that they wander around a bit. Besides, he said, smiling, they are at all the street dances and for clean-up after.

The family, who works the beer tent at the north end together, says they are working but still having fun. “We’re not so busy that we can't enjoy it.” said Steve.

Tony added, “Well, it’s kind of a vacation for us in a way. We all get together and have fun -- rain or shine. We enjoy River Falls Days just as much as anyone else.”

To make the four fun-filled days a success, numerous volunteers are needed. The Linehans said they could not come up with the number of volunteers because there are so many. They noted volunteers in the downtown, at the 10K/2 mile/1K race, the library, the north end.

Besides that there are, according to Steve, city crews, city utilities workers, the chamber employees and interns, civic organizations and local business who do things for the festival.

“This is the one event that involves the entire community, to show off River Falls,” said Steve.

According to Bump, “River Falls Days, and other community events, really depend on volunteers. It simply can't be done without the help and support of people like the Linehans.”

Patsy, who works at Security Financial Bank, says she gets some of her volunteers from previous years that come back and work the same shift. But they do recruit friends and their kids’ friends.

The Linehans said they also do some “cold calling” to find volunteers either for shifts that need to be manned.

Steve said that the local businesses commit to helping. “It’s good PR for the business, good for River Falls and good for their employees,” he added.

Patsy mentioned that they are still in need of volunteers, particularly the late shift at the street dances and north end events. To volunteer call the River Falls Chamber of Commerce at 715-425-2533.

 See the entire article in the July 4 edition of the Journal.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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