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Esplans named BP Citizens of Year

esplans, blooming prairie, citizens of year
Ken and Judy Esplan have been named 2022 Citizens of the Year by the Blooming Prairie Chamber of Commerce. A banquet and program honoring the pair will be held Jan. 26 at the Pizza Cellar in Blooming Prairie. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

Whatever you do, don’t mistake Ken and Judy Esplan’s humility for ingratitude.

They are the Blooming Prairie Chamber of Commerce (BPCC) 2022 Citizens of the Year, but don’t ask them why.

Judy learned about the honor at the Chamber’s wine tasting event in November.

Chamber secretary Karen Peterson told her “and I was like, ‘Really? There’s no one else you can…?’” Judy said.

Ken’s response was similar.

“I told him, and he said, ‘Can we decline?’ And I said, well, that isn’t very nice,” Judy laughed.

“I knew that wasn’t an option, but it was my first thought,” Ken said.

Their reluctance to acknowledge their own contributions to the BPCC and the city itself makes them even more deserving – though of course they would disagree.

“We don’t mind honoring someone else, because (the winners) are always very deserving,” Judy said.

“I guess you look at it differently when it’s somebody else,” her husband admitted.

They don’t know yet who nominated them, and “I don’t have any idea what their criteria is,” Ken said.

Chamber members submit names for nominees based on community involvement and charity.

Ken and Judy (Herdina) Esplan both grew up in Blooming Prairie and met when Ken returned home from the service. They have four children and 15 grandchildren and will celebrate their 50th anniversary in May.

The pair definitely shine, but it’s almost always behind the scenes.

“I’m big on volunteerism,” Judy said. “We always just try to get people to volunteer.”

For 22 years, she volunteered to serve as the treasurer for Blooming Prairie’s Fourth of July celebration; she has handed it off this year.

Judy is also treasurer for St. Columbanus Cemetery, does all of the bookwork for it, and the couple counts money periodically for St. Columbanus Catholic Church, where they are members.

Ken is treasurer for the VFW Club and is treasurer and program director for the Knights of Columbus.

They were grand marshals of the Fourth of July parade in 2019, which they both said was fun, but …

“It’s a lot easier to be behind the scenes than out in front,” Ken said.

“I was one that never volunteered for anything, until someone asked me to join the Knights,” he said, “and pretty soon, you’re filling three roles.”

Another example of his work was the Purple Heart City recognition ceremony he spearheaded last spring.

His brother, BP mayor Curt Esplan, “asked if I’d take the lead on the Purple Heart City Award,” Ken said. “I said, ‘it’s not really in my wheelhouse, trying to line something like that up, but I’ll see what I can do.’ And I’ll tell you what, it’s probably the best thing I ever got involved with.”

He tracked down two dozen Purple Heart recipients from southern Minnesota, and each veteran was introduced by name, with their date and location of service. They all received a certificate, a Purple Heart coin – purchased by the service organization and the city; a lapel pin and a hat that recognized them as a Purple Heart vet.

Ken Esplan received his Purple Heart after being injured by a mortar shell in 1970 while serving in Vietnam.

“There you were, being pulled out of your comfort zone,” Judy said of his role in that project.

He’ll step out of his comfort zone again at the Citizen of the Year banquet and annual meeting, set for Jan. 26 at the Pizza Cellar in Blooming Prairie. Social hour is at 5 p.m., followed by the dinner and annual meeting at 6 p.m.

The program begins at 7 p.m.

“I’ll probably say a few words, but it won’t be much,” Ken said. “I just think Blooming Prairie is a great town; it’s a great place to raise your kids. All of our kids have stayed around the area. It’s a nice honor, for sure, but it hit me out of left field. It was a surprise.”

The honor is more about the city than it is them, they said.

“I just stress the fact that to keep it great, you have to be involved,” Judy said. “You have to get out there and volunteer. If you want to keep the events that are put on by the Chamber, you have to have people volunteer to put on those events.”

Including everyone “unites the town,” she said, “because you get more out of it than the people you’re doing it for.”

“It’s work,” Ken said, “but she’s absolutely right.”


If You Go:

What: 2022 BP Citizen of the Year

Who: Ken and Judy Esplan

When: Jan. 26; 5 p.m. social hour; 6 p.m. dinner and meeting; 7 p.m. program

Where: The Pizza Cellar in Blooming Prairie

Tickets: $35/person. Must be purchased by Jan. 17. Call 507-583-4472


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