Joseph Juranitch was born in Milwaukee during the year 1961. Finances were scarce in the Juranitch family due to his father inventing, researching and developing sharpening equipment. Joe’s elementary years were extremely difficult. In addition to having to change schools often, his teachers all assumed he was just a “lazy kid” and not eager to learn, so Joe resorted to developing a very colorful sense of humor and always made a joke out of every situation. Joe’s family moved to Ely in 1976.
In 1982 Joe set the world record for shaving a beard with an axe (8 minutes and 43 seconds) and it still stands today. At the time this was a promotion for his family’s business, Razor Edge Systems, Inc. Razor Edge specializes in cutting-edge products; from industrial sharpeners used for meat companies to knife sharpening equipment for the home and sportsmen. Joe would grow his beard for a full season and then shave it with an axe sharpened by the company’s equipment. This was an important piece of Joe’s transition to Ragnar, for it helped shape his appearance. Joe was also appearing as Santa Claus for the city of Ely. He fit the role well and continued it until moving to Minneapolis.
As a junior in high school, Joe started experimenting with marijuana. The summer of his senior year in 1981, Joe turned 19. Since he was of drinking age and still in high school, this was a perfect combination for disaster. As Joe became dependent on alcohol, he began to have numerous encounters with the law. During his weekend alcohol binges, he met the “love of his life”, Laurie Baxter. She also had a severe drinking problem, mixed with various drugs. Soon after high school graduation in 1981, Laurie and Joe went their separate ways. In 1986 Joe reunited with Laurie and noticed a drastic change in her lifestyle. She told him how difficult her life had become with drinking and drugs. She realized there were no other choices left for her but to make a total life change committed to God. At first he was disappointed in her change, but the stress of his family, business and a severe drinking problem eventually convinced him to give his life to the Lord also. In 1987 Joe married Laurie.
After Joe moved to Minneapolis in 1986, he began working at Minnetonka High School as a security officer. Joe stayed at Minnetonka until 2000, before moving to Hopkins School District, where he became Assistant Dean of Students. Laurie has also worked in the Hopkins District with special needs students since 1989.
In 1993, Laurie convinced Joe to audition for the Minnesota Vikings as their new mascot. Through the support of friends, family and the students at Minnetonka, Joe overwhelmingly won the hearts of the Minnesota Viking fans and got the job. His first game was in August of 1994, when the Minnesota Vikings beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then Ragnar has been entertaining the crowds, young and old alike. He has never missed a Vikings game since starting in 1994. He is always the first to arrive on a loud motorcycle, and the first to rally the fans to a feverish pitch! He was the first person to use a motorcycle to introduce an event, which has been widely copied in entertainment and professional sport circles. He is the only “human” mascot in professional sports, and is the most widely recognized mascot in the world.
The Minnesota Vikings have a long standing history of community involvement and Ragnar the Viking is an integral part of this. Laurie has taught Ragnar sign language, which allows Ragnar to communicate with hearing impaired fans. Ragnar also has a special place in his heart for kids with special needs, and he will go out of his way to uplift them at any chance he gets.
In addition to his numerous charity appearances and autograph sessions, Ragnar has been in numerous print and film advertisements, fishing shows and movies. In 1997, Joe had a role in his first film titled 20/20 Vision, starring Jesse Ventura. Joe’s character was Mr. Ferringer, a depressed man that was seeking counseling. Joe’s performance was exceptional, and it has led to many more advertisements.