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2007, May 7, Crossroads

2007, May 7, Crossroads

Crowd turns out to support rebuilding of burned hall

Crowd turns out to support rebuilding of burned hall

Crowd turns out to support rebuilding of burned hall


            Hundreds come to eat and dance at Gruenau Hall fundraiser

            By Sonny Long, Victoria Advocate


            YORKTOWN – Hundreds of people who would like to see 80-year-old Gruenau Hall rebuilt flocked to a fundraiser Sunday at the Yorktown Community Hall.

            Gruenau Hall, about eight miles north Yorktown, burned in the early morning hours Jan. 17.

            “This is a strong message that the community wants Gruenau Hall back and motivation for us to see to it. It´s a fabulous turnout. Overwhelming,” said Ted Dlugosch, hall association ( Gruenau Turn and Schuetzen Verein ) president. “With every person that shows up today, we are that much closer to getting the hall back. This is our regular Feast Day, the first Sunday in May, and we want everyone to remember it as a special day.”

            Tommy Stepanski, association vice president, said, “We prepared for 1,040. We had 950 presale tickets, and 25 percent of those were during the last three days.”

            Sunday´s event featured barbecue chicken plates, Gruenau Hall merchandise, dancing, and music with Chris Rybak.

            “The community has been great. People who aren´t even in the association brought out baked goods to sell,” said Bill Niemeir, chair of the association´s fundraising committee.

            At one point Sunday, they ran out of chicken, but a quick run to the grocery store solved that problem.

            “Many association members donated their tickets back so we could make sure everyone that showed up was taken care of, and they were,” said Stepanski. “This has been unexpected, surprising, great.”

            “Everyone has ties to Gruenau Hall,” Stepanski said. “That´s where I met my wife.”

            Dlugosch said many people have stepped forward with “good ideas and with their talent,” to assist in the fundraising. The association, which was formed in 1906, has more than 100 members. In addition to Dlugosch and Stepanski, the group´s board of directors includes secretary - treasurer Phil Mueller and directors Tom Trevilion and Ronnie Afflerbach.



            Friends of Gruenau Hall

            Sitting in the driver´s seat of her pickup outside the Yorktown Community Hall, Robin Caran bought five T-shirts.

            She lives near Gruenau Hall. “I saw it burn that morning,” she said. “My oldest daughter´s wedding reception was supposed to be there. We all cried. We all went to dances out there. We had our parents´ 50th wedding anniversary out there. It´s important to be here to help.”

            Inside the community center, Betty Burda sipped a cold drink, talking with friends.

            “Gruenau Hall is the center of that community. All the dance halls suffer together when something like the fire happens,” said Burda. “The Yorktown Community Hall donated use of the building today. We want to help.”

Tommy Gwosdz agreed. “Gruenau Hall is important to a lot of people,” he said. “There are a lot of memories there. We had our Yorktown High senior prom there in 1993.”



            The dance hall, off Farm-to-Market Road 108 in DeWitt County, was originally built in 1900. It was used for dances and rifle team activities. Contest with neighboring communities became major events including feasts, dances, and the crowning of a Schuetzen-Koenig, king of the rifleman.

            The hall that burned was built in 1927 continued to host two sausage festivals each years, one the spring and one in the fall. It also continued to be the home for dances, and special events like wedding receptions, anniversary parties and other family gatherings.

            According to gruenauhall.com, Vachel Weldon Sr., who had acquired land from the Indianola Railroad Company after plans were abandoned to extend the tracks along the old Indianola Trail, opened Gruenau for settlement in 1890.

            The grass-covered prairie suggested the name Gruenau, German for “green meadow,” and many of the community´s early settlers came from Grünau in Oldenburg, Germany. The German farmers raised cotton and feed for their cows, hogs and chickens. In later years, the cotton was replaced by flax. Following common practice among German settlements, Gruenau organized a Turnverein, or athletic club, and Schuetzen Verein, or shooting club, about 1897, and a brass band sometime in the early 1890s.


Photo:  Chris Rybak performs with his dad, Leroy, on Sunday at the Gruenau Hall fundraiser at the Yorktown Community Hall.

Copyright 2024 © Chris Rybak.