Mr. Hutchinson Tim Sanken and Woman of the Year Becky Felling

Tim Sanken and Becky Felling were named this year’s Mr. Hutchinson and Hutchinson Woman of the Year.

Each year, the Hutchinson Jaycee Water Carnival comes with many highlights. Among them is the announcement of the new Mr. Hutchinson and Hutchinson Woman of the Year. This public recognition of community service takes place Friday night during the Queen Pageant.

This year's recipients are Tim Sanken as Mr. Hutchinson and Becky Felling as Hutchinson Woman of the Year.

The honor of Mr. Hutchinson was added to the Water Carnival in 1955. The first recipient was Lew Merrill. Since then, more than 60 men have been recognized for their volunteerism.

The first Hutchinson Woman of the Year, Jean Peterson, was selected in 1977. This honor was bestowed by the Hutchinson Jaycee Women and was separate from the Water Carnival for more than 20 years. In 2002, the honors of Mr. Hutchinson and Woman of the Year were brought together and became part of the festivities.

Choosing Mr. Hutchinson and Hutchinson Woman of the Year is the responsibility of the vice commodore and his second mate. This year it fell to Ryan Elbert and wife, Sam. The process begins with a public announcement seeking nominations. From there, Team Elbert whittled it down to this year's recipients.


Water Carnival Vice Commodore Ryan Elbert wrote the following about this year's Mr. Hutchinson:

In my eight years in the Water Carnival, I have seen some amazing, talented and dedicated men receive the title of Mr. Hutchinson, and this year’s recipient is no exception. I am truly honored to present this award to Tim Sanken, a man that has positively affected so many lives in our community and around the world.

This year, I received multiple nominations for Mr. Hutchinson and as I read through them, Tim's time, talent and personal involvement in the city of Hutchinson and the state made him a great choice as this year’s recipient. The nomination letters I received said this about him:

“He is someone with high integrity, honesty, strong leadership and trustworthiness.”

“He always made wise decisions as a leader and continually created an atmosphere of professionalism and high morale across his team.”

“The number of people and organizations that have received his support are countless, not only within this community but outside this community as well. He has positively affected groups from all different ages and groups of people.”

I am privileged to have him become a member of this coming year’s royal family.

Surprised by the honor? You bet. 

Unlike some years when it's a challenge to get the future Mr. Hutchinson to attend the Friday night festivities, Tim and Cheryl Sanken have been attending Water Carnival events since their son Jacob was vice commodore and then commodore. Prior to that, the couple had been driving queen candidates in their convertible for the Grande Day Parade since 2003.

"Actually it was was kind of interesting," Cheryl said about attending the Friday night pageant. "When the contribution letter for scholarships came, Tim grabbed his checkbook and wrote out a check. i said, 'I guess this means we're going.' Once we realized the importance of the scholarship money, it was easy to do."

Looking back on the weekend, if their exhaustion factor is any gauge it was a very good weekend. 

"We're gearing up," Cheryl said. "It's going to be a fun summer with lots of things to do."


Through the years, Sanken has made many contributions to Hutchinson and surrounding communities, including his involvement with the following:

  • Since 2004, he's been doing medical mission trips with For Hearts and Souls to Mongolia and Kurdistan in northern Iraq
  • More than 30-year member of the Brownton American Legion
  • Served in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 35 years as both company commander and battalion commander of the Hutchinson unit
  • Been a member for more than 50 years of Christ the King Lutheran Church and has served on the church council three times
  • Courier for “Be the Match,” delivering bone marrow and stem cells throughout the U.S. and the world
  • Serves free lunch to high school students through Hutchinson Area Youth Ministries
  • As a hospice volunteer

Sanken is a lifelong resident of McLeod County. He was born in Glencoe and graduated from Brownton High School Class of 1965. Upon graduation, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree from St Cloud State. He worked at 3M of Hutchinson for 37 years. He and his wife Cheryl raised three children in Hutchinson.

I want to wrap this up with some of the words from Tim’s sister who said, “Tim is an excellent example of the best of humanity.”

The Jaycees have a saying, “Service to humanity is the best work of life.”  Sanken is a perfect example of this.


Water Carnival Second Mate Sam Elbert wrote the following about this year's Hutchinson Woman of the Year:

For Ryan and I, the selection of Hutchinson Woman of the Year was not an easy task, however, one woman stood out from the rest. Becky Felling, our new Woman of the Year, is someone who has touched the lives of many people, and I am very excited for her to join our royal family and represent Hutchinson.

So many positive words were used to describe this year’s Woman of the Year. Her service to the community exemplifies the person she is and the commitment she has to the health and safety of our community. She has participated on many different boards and groups within the community.

"I was absolutely shocked," Felling said of the honor announced Friday. "My first thought was, 'Oh my gosh, this is embarrassing. Why me?' It's a humbling experience. You see the women who were the previous Women of the Year, it's an honor to be included with people who have done so much in the community."

Felling was born in 1944 at Long Prairie, Minnesota. She graduated in 1962 as valedictorian from Long Prairie High School. She then proceeded to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Catherine University in St. Paul. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she went on to earn her master's in public health nursing from the University of Colorado, Denver.   

Felling married her husband, Jim, in 1967. They went on to have three children and six grandchildren

She has been a volunteer, member and leader of several civic and social organizations in the community, some of which include: Blandin Community Leadership Program, Hutchinson Housing and Redevelopment Authority board member, Hutchinson Community Hospital board member, Common Cup board member, Prince of Peace board member, Heart of Hutchinson and Hutchinson Connects board member, Hutchinson Rotary board member, and Parent Connection board member.

In 2008 she received the Distinguished Service Award from the state of Minnesota. Becky lives her life to help and serve others. She shows us that service to humanity is the best work of life.