by Cori Hilsgen
St. Joseph is known far and wide for its annual July 3 and 4 Joetown Rocks Parish Festival and annual parade sponsored by the St. Joseph Lions.
Usually, during those two days each year, the streets of the city and the church grounds are filled with people who come to celebrate and visit with friends, relatives and neighbors.
Unfortunately, like many other area celebrations, these traditional annual events will not take place this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although chairpersons had begun planning for these events months ago, decisions to postpone/cancel them were recently made.
Joetown Rocks chairpersons Dean Budde and Bruce Bechtold, along with other concert committee members, decided at a May 5 Zoom meeting to cancel this year’s July 3 concert.
The group and other Church of St. Joseph festival stand chairs had discussed event and large gathering and trend options taking place around Minnesota earlier and had decided a decision needed to be made by May 8.
Concert committee members Jeff Velline and Tommy Velline said they will plan to move current concert plans into 2021.
“This decision, though a tough reality, was easy to make, and all similar events across the state are following suit if they have not already, right through August at the moment,” Jeff Velline said.
“As best we can, the parish will try and make up the economic difference,” Budde said. “However, there’s many more facets to this Joetown Rocks that will be missing. The parishioners and Central Minnesota will not get to listen to Tom and Jeff and the Killer Vee’s music, we will miss the camaraderie and socialization and we will miss the pride that this parish takes when the parishioners put their time and talents together to successfully complete a large task like this. I, personally, have met many more wonderful parishioners in the preparations for Joetown Rocks and the church reconstruction. When all is said and done, most parishioners will sit down, reminisce with exhaustion and say ‘what a ride’. Then we start to gear up for the next one.”
Budde and Bechtold met with festival stand chairs at a May 6 Zoom meeting to announce the Joetown Rocks concert postponement and discuss plans for an upgraded raffle and other options to help replace the annual festival.
In the past, the festival has included food booths, refreshments, quilt auction, bingo and other games, a merry-go-round and train ride for children, candy stand, cake walk, country store, handiwork and craft stand and fireworks.
Besides being a wonderful socialization event, the Church of St. Joseph depends greatly on the income from this event to help meet its annual budget.
Bechtold and Budde announced the postponement/cancellation of the festival after the church’s May 10 recorded Mass and Bechtold said the church budgets $100,000 of annual income from the event. The two chairpersons discussed some new ideas to replace this lost income.
Some new options for the postponed/canceled festivities being considered include the following.
Concert and festival planners hope to increase raffle ticket income. The annual July 4 raffle will still take place, but it will be changed from a book of 20 raffle tickets sold for $2 each to a book of 10 raffle tickets sold for $10 each.
Twenty-two anonymous contributors have donated money to offer a $5,000 grand prize for the raffle in addition to other similar prizes as in previous years.
A planned drive-thru pickup of raffle books is scheduled for parishioners on Sunday, May 31. Parishioners will be handed raffle books as they drive by a booth in the church’s east parking lot.
Organizers plan to telephone and deliver raffle books to parishioners who are unable to pick their books up on May 31.
Parishioners will be able to drop off their sold raffle ticket stubs and money collected at a booth on Sunday, June 28, in the church’s east parking lot.
Budde said the goal from the raffle is to try to collect $50,000 to $100,000.
“This festival has been part of our community for generations and it is sad that we need to postpone it this year,” Bechtold said. “I hope our parishioners and community embrace the raffle with the same enthusiasm as they did the festival. This would have been our 15th Joetown concert and I look forward to its return in 2021.”
The church quilters have been busy for months stitching beautiful quilts for the annual quilt auction until Gov. Tim Walz’s shelter in place went into effect. Options for an online quilt auction are being researched and considered, possibly offering three to five quilts at a time.
Jeff and Tom Velline, are planning to put together a few fun videos to share with people who will be missing the concert music.
Volunteers of the Joetown Festival usually receive and wear printed T-shirts for the event. Selling and/or awarding T-shirts, with a clever slogan and design, to people who sold extra raffle tickets is being discussed.
A future outdoor/indoor country store may also be held when outdoor fundraisers such as Rocktoberfest and the Millstream Arts Festival can be held.
The annual parade, sponsored by the St. Joseph Lions Club, will not take place this year. Parade organizers Joe and Joanne Bechtold and Ken and Mary Stommes have been working with the parade for more than 10 years.
The July 4 parade usually began at 10 a.m. at the corner of Minnesota Street and Third Avenue SW. and traveled down Minnesota Street for one and a half miles, ending at 17 Avenue E.
“The parade and celebration go hand-in-hand as far as we are concerned,” the Bechtolds said.
Joann Bechtold said that according to an article about the history of the parade written by Jim Kuebelbeck, the St. Joseph Lions Club has been handling the July 4 parade since 1964.
Parishioners and residents should check the Church of St. Joseph website bulletin and Joetown Rocks Facebook pages. For additional information, visit the churchstjoseph.org website and Joetown Rocks Facebook page.
Other area events such as the Sartell SummerFest, weekly Summertime by George Concert Series, Granite City Days and Avon Spunktacular days have also canceled.
The New York Times recently released data on May 1 which suggested that St. Cloud is on track to become one of the most significant Covid-19 hotspots in the country.
The data showed positive cases for Covid-19 were growing by 42 percent daily and the number of confirmed cases doubling every two days.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.