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St. Lawrence Parish Festival and Polka Mass draws big crowds

The 31st annual St. Lawrence Parish Festival and Polka Mass was held Sunday, August 6 and was an overwhelming success according to event organizers.

“This is a great way to bring people together, it’s a fun day for the parish, families and the community,” said Lisa Werner, who has been with the parish for 40 years. “My favorite part is Father Michael and the outdoor polka mass, but I also enjoy going around and visiting with people after mass.”

Having polka music during the mass is a way to celebrate the area’s German heritage, much the same way the founder of the polka mass, Father Frank Perkovich of Chisolm, Minn. envisioned, including music from his Slovenian and Croatian background during his mass. Perkovich worked with a local polka band on the music, and his mother wrote lyrics using liturgy. He held the very first polka mass in 1973. The idea grew in popularity, and in 1983 Perkovich presented the polka mass to Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Lead vocalist, accordion player and founder of the Cathy Erickson Band, Cathy Erickson, said the music is there to add to the service, not to entertain. That’s for afterwards.

Erickson has been playing at the festival for 29 years. She’s willing to travel 165 miles from Middle River, Minn. every year for this event because it’s the cadillac of all the festivals she plays. “And I’ve played at a lot of festivals,” she added. “The great people, this beautiful setting, and the wonderful outdoor mass all come together to make it the finest festival in Minnesota.”

St. Lawrence Parish is the oldest church in Ottertail county, founded in 1866, and was apart of one of the first settlements in the area. The fundraiser started as a dinner and raffle and eventually grew into the festival, with over 600 attendees.

Activities included bingo, a silent auction, and games for the kids. Dinner this year was chicken and prime rib, with root beer floats, ice cream and popcorn available to munch on while wandering the grounds.

Other treats included  83 dozen homemade cookies and 12 different types of candy...all made from scratch by Alice Doll and her brother. Doll, who has been a member of the church her entire life, said the the last two years the goodies have sold out. All the money raised at the festival goes to religious education projects and St. Henry’s school in Perham.

Werner said seeing how the festival has grown and how it brings in people from all over has been amazing. “It’s great how everyone works together to make the festival a success, it just flows. I’ll never leave. I love it here, the community, the people. We are all very close.”