MARSHALL - Approximately 370 boys from across the state are expected to gather in Marshall this upcoming week for the 65th session of American Legion Boys State, a program that involves an exercise in applied government.
During the week-long venture at Southwest Minnesota State University, the high school seniors-to-be learn, hands-on, about government, patriotism and citizenship, while participating in city, county and state government activities and elections.
"Our numbers are less than five down from last year, so that's good," said Mike Bredeck, Boys State director. "We're going to be starting the earliest we can start, which is June 9. Next year, we'll be starting the latest we can start. We'll be resetting the calendar."
Bredeck said there were a few conflicts with state tournament athletic events, but that next year, that shouldn't happen. Every year, Boys State organizers try to serve as many young men as possible each year, keeping a strong legacy alive.
"It's hard to say we don't want those boys to participate in their state tournament," he said. "Next year, we won't run into that."
Attendees are typically sponsored by their local American Legion posts and come from all corners of the state. From the time they step foot on the SMSU campus, the seniors-to-be have countless opportunities to develop long-lasting friendships and networking connections for the future.
This year marks the seventh straight year that SMSU has hosted the Boys State program.
The university has three more years to go in its five-year contract to host the event on campus.
"SMSU is absolutely a good fit," Bredeck said, referring to the facilities, food service, housing and staff on the campus.
Boys State 2013 will run Sunday through Saturday and will feature a variety of speakers, including Paul Anderson, Minnesota Supreme Court justice. Anderson will give a judicial branch address on Tuesday evening.
"Paul couldn't make it last year, but he's a big deal with the kids," Bredeck said.
Zach McFarland, the 2012 Boys State Governor, will give the first address Sunday, followed by Henry Shea, past Boys State governor.
"Zach was a state speech champion this past year in discussion," Bredeck said. "I think his speech experience helped him at Boys State last year and his Boys State experience helped him in speech. It had a positive impact both ways."
Shea, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, will also speak to the boys Monday, as will Dean Johnson, University of Minnesota Regent and past senate majority leader, and Bill Mulso, SMSU associate vice president. Johnson's presentation will be on service and leadership, while Mulso will provide insight on local government in the form of school board leadership.
On Wednesday, Ted Daley, former state senator and Minnesota Boys Stater, will give an address on veteran's legislation and the role of lobbyists. Later that evening, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt will present on the legislative branch.
Minnesota's major political parties presentation will be given by House Majority Speaker Paul Thissen and Republican State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer.
In addition to gaining valuable knowledge and practicing campaign processes, the boys staters will also have the opportunity to participate in organized sporting events like volleyball, basketball and softball.
The boys from school districts all over the state also have the chance to get involved with the Boys State band, choir or newspaper. While a daily newspaper edition will be published on campus, a final band and choir concert will take place at 6:45 p.m. Friday at the Schwan Center for the Performing Arts at Marshall High School.