by Cori Hilsgen
St. Joseph residents and visitors won’t be doing their traditional rockin’ to the beat of the Joetown Rocks performers, viewing the annual parade or attending the Church of St. Joseph festival this year and many residents who usually attend the events are trying to determine how they will spend the Fourth of July holiday.
Concert co-chairman Dean Budde said he will be at the raffle drawing which will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 4 in the Church of St. Joseph Heritage Hall.
Because of the postponement/cancellation of events, the raffle has been reworked to help replace many lost festival revenues. More than 900 books of raffle tickets were distributed with tickets selling for $10 each for a chance to win the top prize of $5,000.
Budde said his participation in the festival began in 2004 when he volunteered at the Mexican/taco stand. The next year he worked in the beer stand on concert night when beer was served in plastic cups and large kegs were tapped.
“A hard lesson was learned that year,” he said. “You just can’t get the beer out of the kegs fast enough. Thereafter, it was canned beer on ice with cold hands and sore fingers getting them open. The beer stand was my gig up until last year (from) 6 p.m. ‘til midnight.”
Last year, he also helped check identification cards, assisted with draining overhead tarps of their rain load, helped disassemble and pack away equipment and later helped dry the tarps.
When he was asked to help chair this year’s Joetown Rocks Concert, he volunteered with Bruce Bechtold to co-chair the event. Bechtold and his wife, Pat Becthold, have been active festival volunteers and have been general chairpersons and have chaired several stands.
Jeff Vee has been involved with the Joetown Rocks Concert since the event was started in 2006. He and his father, Bobby Vee (a famous songwriter and musician who also appeared in films, had many Top 20 hits and performed worldwide), and his brother, Tommy Vee, worked with Rich Schwegel and the early concert committee to help coordinate the event for the past 14 years
“Typically on the fourth, we lay pretty low as all of our energy has gone into the July 3 concert and activities and it is always a very late night,” Vee said. “This summer I expect it to be pretty quiet for obvious reasons. We will likely spend the time along the North Shore where we go often to avoid the crowds.”
He said it was hard to cancel this year’s show.
“It still does not even seem real, but neither does most of what is going on in our country,” Vee said. “It was, however, the right thing to do. We’ll look forward to working with everyone toward an amazing event in 2021.”
Darla Schwegel said she and her husband, Rich Schwegel, have not yet made any plans about how they will spend the holiday.
Rich was instrumental in organizing the first Joetown Rocks Concert and Darla said both of them dedicated their July 3 and 4 to the concert/festival for the past 14 years. Rich retired as chairman after last year’s event.
Jeny Meyer will be helping with the online quilt auction which is replacing the live auction that usually takes place at the festival.
She said she will be watching the bids all weekend for the online auction which closes on the evening of Sunday, July 5.
“It will be exciting to see how the online auction goes,” Meyer said.
In past years, Meyer said she and her family usually walk around and socialize during the concert. On July 4, Meyer and her husband, Mike Meyer, meet volunteers at 7 a.m. to help quilting chairperson Delrose Fischer and other volunteers put quilts on the hay rack for the parade.
Later they join Mike’s family and watch the parade together. After the parade, they eat lunch at the festival and later both of them help at the quilt auction that begins at 1:30.
“This year, it’s going to feel different,” Jeny said. “We probably won’t have as much family around. We will probably make the most of the change of schedule. We might sleep in a little, enjoy coffee on the porch in the morning and enjoy the day with whatever comes our way.”
Amber Walling said she has been part of the Joetown Rocks celebration for a year as business administrator for the Church of St. Joseph.
“It was an amazing celebration with an outstanding sense of community,” Walling said.
She said she was hoping to introduce her family to the festival this year, since all her siblings will be in Minnesota for July 4.
“Instead, we will celebrate together with a family meal and activities for the kids and adults,” Walling said. “When we get together, we have a family talent show. Everyone is required to participate, and the kids especially love it.”
Church of St. Joseph Facility Manager Andy Loso said July 4 has been a big deal and the place to be for him for many years. As a child, he would help with setup, attend the parade, and play games and eat at the festival grounds.
Since 2001 as he has been employed by the church, his July 4, the week before it and a few days after it were all figured out for him.
“I am on the grounds the week prior to the festival to help Mark Leither, our logistical coordinator with setup, generally spending a day getting everything we rent picked up and brought back here,” Loso said. “Once it is all here, we have a small army of volunteers that come in and spend five days setting up. I work with them setting up, gathering supplies and doing tasks as needed. It is usually 10- to 14-hour days, but the time goes by quickly because I enjoy the camaraderie with the volunteers.”
Loso said on July 3 after he has a Joe Burger or two he is usually on the festival grounds by 8 p.m. visiting with a few people he tends to see only once each year.
“I am off to bed early, as I must be up by 2 a.m. to get our Model T (car) into the parade line-up for the St. Joseph Historical Society,” Loso said. “I am then on the grounds by 3 a.m., along with a small dedicated crew of volunteers, to clean up the concert area and set up different things for the Fourth of July festivities.”
This year, Loso is not sure what he will do. He said his local Model T club puts on a July 4 tour and picnic he has always wanted to attend, but has not been able to, so that is an option. His parents rent a cabin for the July 4 week and he might visit them, or he might stay home and enjoy time with his family.
“What I do know is, it will be odd not spending time with the same people I normally see over the fourth of July,” he said.
Peggy and Jim Boettcher, husband and wife, have been members of the Church of St. Joseph parish for 27 years and have worked at the event every year except one. They were directors for a few years and worked in the Joe Burger stand for many years. They also worked in the bingo stand, closet, refreshment stand, beer stand and other areas.
“Our children grew up going to the event and loved it,” Peggy said.
She said this year they plan to celebrate with family spending time on the water.
St. Joseph Catholic School Administrative Assistant Linda Heinen said she and her husband, Joe Heinen, also do not have specific plans for this year. In recent years, they have usually enjoyed watching the fireworks from wherever they could view them and have attended the parade with their grandchildren.
Linda and Joe were active festival volunteers for many years running the train ride, working the Kiddie games and volunteering in other areas. Linda, along with Cheri Burg, has also helped judge the parade for many years.
Kristi Spaniol said she and her husband, Peter Spaniol, don’t have any current plans this year, although they do live by a lake. In past years, Peter has co-chaired the Joe Burger stand and Kristi chaired the novelty stand.
Linda and Loren Hinnenkamp, husband and wife, usually celebrate the day by inviting friends and relatives to gather and watch the parade which travels past their house. Linda said they have not yet made plans for this year. In the past, they were active volunteers at the festival.
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.