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Knoblich named Elk of the Year

John M. Steiner / The Sun Larry Knoblich of Jamestown talks Thursday about his years of service in the North Dakota Elks and as the founder of the Runnin O' the Green. Knoblich was named the North Dakota Elk of the Year last weekend.

A Jamestown man was honored last weekend for his charity and community work over the past three decated.

Larry Knoblich was named the North Dakota Elk of the Year. The Elks' main project in North Dakota is Camp Grassick, to which Knoblich donates part of the registration fees to each year.

"He has done a great deal for raising money for Camp Grassick and is very deserving of the Elk of the Year award from the North Dakota Elks Association," said Larry Bares, past president of the North Dakota State Elks Association.

Dwaine Heinrich, a longtime Elk who accepted the award for Knoblich, was the one who received the praise and thanks at the convention.

"I was met with universal approval and thanks for Larry for all he has done for Jamestown and the Elks," Heinrich said.

He estimated that, over the years, Camp Grassick has received close to $100,000 from Knoblich's annual bar-hopping fun run.

Located near Dawson, N.D., Camp Grassick provides disabled individuals a summer camp experience.

"Larry has been a wonderful example of what one person with an idea can accomplish," Heinrich said.

The St. Patrick's Day run started 33 years ago, with 12 people, and included a priest and a dog.

Heinrich said it was Knoblich's way of making Irish priests feel welcome in a town full of Germans and Scandinavians.

"It wasn't until the last few years until we had way over 100 (people) and even now into the thousands," Knoblich said.

The event has morphed into a massive celebration. Close to 2,000 people partook last year and raised close to $20,000 for Camp Grassick and local cancer patients.

"The best thing I get out of it is they give me a thank you," he said of helping local cancer patients, "and to me a thank you is basically the only thing I expect out of this."

He gives patients checks they can use for gas, lodging or any other expenses that come with a cancer battle.

Jamestown sees a big boost from the Runnin O' the Green and the economic impact is estimated at $500,000 annually.

People stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, fill up their gas tanks and, of course, visit the local bars.

"I don't think that were running the Runnin O' the Green for anything other than everyone getting a little piece of the pie," Knoblich said of the economic impact.

Many area businesses see their busiest day of the year when the Run comes around. Recently people have suggested that Knoblich ask those businesses to donate some of their profits. He won't have anything of it.

He said the businesses that benefit already give back to the residents of Jamestown, whether it's for a school program or softball team.

"The money gets where it should in the long run anyway," Knoblich said.

The award for Elk of the Year finally got to where it should go as well, Heinrich said.

Knoblich said he was "flabbergasted" and "tickled pink" when Heinrich presented him with the award.

He has previously won Jamestown Elk of the Year three times and figured some larger recognition might be in the works.

Because Knoblich has been elected to that honor three times, he said there are a lack of members in service organizations in Jamestown.

"Every one of these organizations contribute to the city of Jamestown -- every one," he said.

Still he said the state award was a huge honor.

"The only thing I regret beyond belief that my wife wasn't there to share it with me," he said. "She's helped me through so many things."

Joan Knoblich passed away this July. She was a fixture at the Runnin O' the Green and was often found at her husband's side at the event.

Larry himself has spent the last 71 days in a Jamestown nursing home looking to fully recover from medical complications. He would like to stay until he is fully recovered but is facing some financial difficulties.

"I'm feeling pretty weak right now but I'm looking forward to the 34th Annual Runnin O' the Green," he said.

While some people may spend their time fishing or working on vehicles, Knoblich spends his free time planning the Run, which is a year-long task.

"It's a hobby I assume everybody should have -- to help people out," he said.

Larry said Jamestown always has been a blue-collar town filled with people who always worked for what they have in life.

"I'm surprised that anyone would think anything less than to share what they have with other people," he said.

Still, throughout the whole ordeal, Larry has kept his never give up attitude, Heinrich said.

"I'm going to celebrate the 50th Runnin O' the Green," he said. "I'll be 92, but damn it I'm going to hang on."

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at