Twenty-six years ago, St. Lawrence Catholic Church celebrated its first Polka Mass. Since then, the annual event has become a favorite tradition for many in the area, combining worship, food, games and music - and attracting more than 600 people to the little church near Rush Lake.

The tradition continues this year on Sunday, Aug. 5, with a Polka Mass starting at 10:30 a.m. under the pine trees at the outdoor chapel. Activities will continue throughout the day.

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Once again, the local Knights of Columbus color guard will be part of the mass, as will the Cathy Erickson Band. The band performs throughout Minnesota and will be returning to St. Lawrence for the 20th year to play polka, swing and country selections.

The music will continue throughout the afternoon activities, which include bingo, silent auction and raffle drawings.

There will be plenty of children's games, too. The traditional cakewalk and lollipop tree will be back, along with many other activities. There will be lots of chances for kids to win prizes.

People can browse the country store, filled with homemade goodies and crafts from the members. A chicken and beef dinner will also be served.

Father George Michael, originally from India, will be celebrating his third Polka Mass with the church. He had never experienced a Polka Mass until he came here.

In its 126th year, St. Lawrence is the oldest Catholic Church in Otter Tail County. Though it hosts many events throughout the year, the Polka Mass is by far the highest attended, as special guests and neighboring communities join the parish in the festivities.

Activities and dinner have fees. All proceeds go to Catholic education for youth.

St. Lawrence Church is located on Highway 14, south of Perham.