Leading the parade

Arlene Bakke Rutuelo will head Brooklyn’s Ragamuffin Parade as Person of the Year

Photo: Helene Bakke Arlene Bakke Rutuelo & Victoria Hofmo at Nordic Delicacies, which has been providing Brooklyn with waffles and other delights for 27 years.

Photo: Helene Bakke
Arlene Bakke Rutuelo & Victoria Hofmo at Nordic Delicacies, which has been providing Brooklyn with waffles and other delights for 27 years.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Arlene Bakke Rutuelo, one of the proprietors of Nordic Delicacies in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, will once again be leading the parade. She served as the General Chair of the 17th of May Parade Committee for three years. On September 27th, she will be marching to a different drummer, this time leading the Ragamuffin Parade as their Person of the Year.

Those who do not live in Bay Ridge may be asking, “What the heck is a Ragamuffin Parade?” Well, it is one of the neighborhood’s most cherished traditions in a neighborhood that loves a parade, boasting five annually. The Ragamuffin Parade began in 1967. It takes place at the beginning of autumn and runs along Third Avenue. It features children in costumes—store bought or homemade—local schools, and many families coordinating with theme-based costumes and props. The parade ends with that jolly old elf, Santa.

The idea of this parade began informally when, in 1966, Father McKenna of Our Lady of Angels Church had an idea: the children could dress up and have an informal procession. He invited other local Catholic parishes to join in. According to Joan Curran, writing on the organization’s website, “Back then, no one wore costumes. Kids wore their parents’ clothes so they looked messy like little ragamuffins.” One year later, the parade was put under the auspices of the Bay Ridge Community Council. It has been going strong ever since, and this year marks the 48th Ragamuffin Parade.

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, Bakke Rutuelo was honored at the Ragamuffuin Parade Committee’s Annual Luncheon as Person of the Year. Also being honored was Msgr. Jamie Giagantiello, as this year’s Grand Marshall. Bakke Rutuelo had a plethora of friends and family attending the luncheon on her behalf. I asked her childhood friend Laila Jensen how she felt about Arlene receiving this award. She thoughtfully pondered: “As friends it is an honor to support Arlene, who does so much for the community and puts others before herself.”

Bakke Rutuelo’s volunteer work is quite extensive, much of it tied to her Norwegian roots. She serves as: Vice Chair of the Executive Board of the Norwegian Christian Home & Health Center, Board Member of the Scandinavian East Coast Museum, and Co-Chair of the Miss Norway Contest of Greater New York, and has just finished up her three-year term as Chair of the Norwegian Day Parade. Some of her other volunteer work includes: current President of The Guild for Exceptional Children, and member of the 68th Street Police Council.

Bakke Rutuelo also has a day job, running a very successful and delicious business with her mother, Helene Bakke—Nordic Delicacies. She nourishes the community in other ways, with waffles, fresh boller, fish pudding, and other delights. Besides the home cooking, Nordic also offers Scandinavian jewelry, trolls, and other figurines, linens, books, etc. They have been in business for 27 years.

In her remarks Arlene spoke passionately, yet concisely: “My heart is to love and serve. I do this because of my faith. I know that this is not a popular thing to say, but I give the glory to Him.”

I asked Colleen Golden, Ragamuffin Parade Committee President, to comment about their choice for the 2014 Person of the Year. She responded, “Because we thought Arlene deserved this award. Everything she does for the community: running the Guild for Exceptional Children and Norwegian Day Parade, all her work for special needs children, and the love she has for them made her a perfect fit to be an honoree for a children’s parade.”

So come join the parade! It begins at 1:00 pm and will run along Third Avenue from 76th Street to 92nd Street.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 3, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.