Jim Olson, renown North Dakota media broadcaster, selected as Grand Marshal for the 2021 North Dakota State Parade

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Jim Olson has been involved in broadcasting and journalism for more than 50 years, stretching back to when, as a middle-schooler, he had his own Saturday morning radio program in his hometown of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Jim’s parents were owners of KTRF radio, an operation that included a television channel on the local cable TV system. Jim learned about the business by doing the business–from disc jockey in Minnesota and South Dakota, to sports director, weekend weather anchor, news reporter and, ultimately, news director at KXMC-TV in Minot, North Dakota.

Jim’s radio experience included play-by-play broadcasting of high school sports, most frequently hockey. He and his father worked side-by-side to cover several Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournaments in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jim first moved to North Dakota in 1985, working at KZZY radio in Devils Lake. He moved to Minot in 1986 and landed at KCJB radio and KXMC television, working in sales and on the air. One of his first television jobs was play-by-play of the North Dakota State High School Hockey Tournament for the statewide KX Network in the late 1980s. He also was play-by-play announcer for KX’s State High School Basketball Tournament coverage in 1988.

In the early 1990s Jim became the six and ten p.m. news anchor on KXMC. Within a few years he had been elevated to news director. Throughout his time on television at KXMC, Jim continued reporting stories from around the region, including several major events, among them the 2002 train derailment and anhydrous ammonia spill that covered Minot’s river valley in a poisonous cloud. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to follow the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, and spent weeks in Minneapolis reporting on the major lawsuits that followed the derailment.

Ten years ago a series of events thrust Jim into the middle of the largest story he had encountered: the Mouse River flood that inundated much of Minot and drastically impacted thousands of people living along the river. He coordinated KXMC’s news coverage, starting well before the high water hit with exclusive early warnings to residents of the coming flood. He then anchored, along with Shaun Sipma and Perry Olson, the station’s 24/7 news broadcast that spanned eight days–178 hours of continuous news coverage that kept residents informed of the situation, told their stories as the water overtopped levees, and investigated the management practices that impacted the severity of the damage in the region.

Jim’s children–Perry, Carolyn and Tim–followed him into the television news business. He and his wife of 42 years, Lori, live in Minot, but spend many winter months in Florida. Jim truly has been an essential worker, keeping North Dakota informed.

This year’s parade theme is “Saluting All Essential Workers!” It starts at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, July 24, and follows Burdick Expressway east from Broadway and through the North Dakota State Fairgrounds. Non-commercial entries are free of charge; however, there is a $50 fee for commercial entries (with $40 fee for each additional unit). There is also a $5 charge for entries wishing to be judged. Entry forms may be downloaded at https://www.ndstatefair.com/attractions-events/ and click on “Parade” or on Facebook, North Dakota State Parade.

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