Friends at Home:
In 1961, the German Club of the International Institute of St. Paul, Minnesota, started a dance group to represent them at the Festival of Nations. May Rose and Joe Perrault were engaged to be the instructors and members were encouraged to bring their children along. The performances at the festival went well, but most of the adults found they wanted to spend their time at other endeavors, leaving the children’s group to be on their own.
Practices were moved to the old International Institute building, the site of today’s River Centre. Every other Saturday afternoon, the children would meet, where May Rose and Joe continued instruction on many different German and Austrian dances. In addition to nursing homes and shopping centers, we performed annually at the Junior Festival of Nations.
It wasn’t long, however, before the group split into junior and senior sections. The older kids met and chose “Edelweiss Tänzers” as their new name. Our debut as “Edelweiss Tänzers” was at the St. Paul Harding High School International Festival. We went on to perform at the St. Paul Winter Carnival and the LaCrosse, Wisconsin Oktoberfest, and many others.
In 1967, we met another group of German dancers from Red Lodge, Montana. They came to Minneapolis to promote their local ski area, and we instituted an exchange that took us on our first major trip. With several chaperones, sixteen members took the train to Red Lodge for a ski and dance Easter vacation. When we returned, we had added two dances to our repertoire. The “Mühlradl” and the “Bayrischzeller Schuhplattler” which remain two of our favorite dances.
The summer of 1968 found us performing the “Mühlradl” on a national television special – Bill Dana’s “A Look on the Light Side.” That year, we also started working earnestly toward a trip to Europe. We held car washes, sold candy, sponsored benefit dances, and staffed a Bratwurst booth at the Minnesota State Fair – “Gasthaus Edelweiss.” We also made many appearances throughout the Twin Cities area, including the Minneapolis Aquatennial (where some of us wore out three pairs of shoes dancing in the streets). Part of our payment for these performances was a set of men’s Tyrolean hats from J.C. Penny (more about them later).
Our year of hard work paid off. In June,1969, 21 members left for a three week tour of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We performed in several places, including Gelnhausen, Aalen, Triberg and München. At one performance, our guide’s husband picked up one of our men’s hats and said “This is from my uncle’s factory!” So we added a stop at this factory in Augsburg, where we purchased Miesbacher hats for the women.
That evening, we danced for the Bavarian television network, and were given a dinner reception in the Münchner Rathaus with the mayor of Munich, the Minister President, and His Royal Highness, Prince Konstantine of Bavaria. After the reception, we danced at the Hofbräu Haus, even performing one number with the band there.
In 1970, we made our first contact with other members members of the Gauverband Nordamerika besides the Minnesota Schuhplattler, attending the Fahnenweihe of D’Oberlandler, Milwaukee. Those of us who were there will never forget the reception we received for our Ehrentanz, “Bayrischzeller”. We had never been among so many Trachtler before.
In 1971, we attended the Gaufest in Detroit, Michigan, where we partied and danced until dawn (each night), and then slept all the way home on the bus (18 hours!).
The year 1972 saw us, along with our sponsoring club, B.G.T.E.V. Minnesota Schuhplattler, eagerly awaiting the decision of the Gauverband on our application for Gau membership. To our knowledge, we were the first youth group (as our oldest member was 21) accepted for membership in the Gauverband. As new Gau members, we looked ahead with anticipation to the upcoming Preisplatteln competition in Washington DC. We were all quite shocked when we learned that we had taken fifth place in our very first competition.
In 1977, at the Gaufest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, plans for our own Fahnenweihe began. We hired Mrs. Merzrath, of Milwaukee, to embroider our flag, which was designed by Linda Hatfield, a friend of our Fahnenmutter, Terry Hanson-Day. After five years of dedication and hard work, we hosted our Fahnenweihe in July of 1982. Many of our Trachtler friends from several Vereine across the United States and Canada joined our celebration. Those in attendance remember how hot it was that weekend. In fact, the temperature set a record that still stands today. Our small, but very dedicated group, now named “S.G. Edelweiss St. Paul,” had hosted its first major Gau function.
In 1986, after two years of fundraising and hard work, we embarked on our second trip to Europe. We spent sixteen days traveling throughout Bavaria, performing with several local Vereine in Füssen, Oberammergau and München. The trip culminated in a three-day stay near Miesbach, where we were the guests of the “Heimat und Volkstrachten Verein-Miesbach” at the celebration of their 100th anniversary. A rare honor was bestowed upon our Verein when we received the Weit Preis for traveling the farthest to attend. This trip was certainly a highlight in our existence and will long be a treasured memory to those who attended.
Our Verein continued to grow and change over the next few years. Group members came and went. Many of our founding members got married to other members. The year 1989 saw the founding of our own Kindergruppe. This was an exciting addition to our small Verein, especially for our members who watched their own children perform their own dances for the first time. The Kindergruppe has been well received by audiences across the Twin Cities and has proven to be a valued addition. We look forward to the Kindergruppe’s continued growth and dedication to learning.
In 1991 we celebrated our 30th anniversary with our Patenverein, B.G.T.E.V. Minnesota Schuhplattler and members of the Heimat Tänzer of Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1995 we were honored to be asked to be the Patenverein of the Heimat Tänzer of Omaha in a memorable Patenbitten ceremony. In 1996, we attended their beautiful Fahnenweihe, and were overwhelmed with joy for our Patenkind.
In 1997 we were privileged to be accepted as the hosts for the 17.Gaufest in 1999.
In 1999 we hosted the 17.Gaufest in St Paul. It was with great pride that we welcomed Trachtler from the Gauverband Nordamerika and Bavaria to this celebration capping our 38 years of commitment to our motto “Treu dem guten alten Brauch.” We also debuted our new Vereins Dirndl at the Gaufest, a dirndl from the Pongau region near Salzburg.
In 2001 our Verein participated in the Gruppen Preisplatteln at the 18th Gaufest, which was held at the Nevele Resort in the Catskill Mountains in New York. After many years of not being competitors, we were thrilled to have placed in the identical position as we had in our last competition – 8th place. We also celebrated our 40th anniversary with a large dance celebration at the Sokol Hall, with guests from Bavarian Club Enzian, BGTEV Minnesota Schuhplattler and our Patenkind, Die Heimat Taenzer of Omaha, Nebraska.
In 2002 we attended the Bezirks Heimatfest in Rockford, Illinois. At this event, D’Oberlander Milwaukee presented us with the 8th Place trophy – the coveted “Toilet Seat. To our dismay, the trophy was damaged as we were returning to St Paul, necessitating the creation of a “new” trophy! David Betts and Joanne Roehl spent a considerable amount of time working on the trophy to have it ready before the Philadelphia Gaufest.
In May of 2003, at the 19th Gaufest in Philadelphia, we participated in the Gruppen Preisplatteln, and yet again, placed 8th- the winners of the coveted “Toilet Seat”. Also, four members of our Verein, (Donald LaCourse, Renee LaCourse, Jacob Schultz, and Jenny Roehl) had the distinction of being the 1st and 2nd place couples in the first “unofficial” Einzelpreisplattler.
In October 2003, Don, Renee, Jacob, and Jenny, along with Mark La Course, traveled to Bavaria to take part in the 3rd annual Bayrische Löwen Schuhplattler Competition held in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. They participated as the first American individual couples invited to take part in this prestigious championship, along with two group competitors from Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ. The competition was held in a large ballroom of a charming hotel on the Auwaldsee in Ingolstadt. They arrived at 8:30 am to register for the competition and did not reveal their “Foreign” origin. There were no whispers about “the Americans” until Jacob and Jenny took the floor. Then we heard approving murmurs about our Festtracht. When the first “catch” of the girl happened, the entire room gasped at the smoothness with which it was accomplished. When the dance was finished, the room erupted in thunderous applause. A short while later, Don and Renee performed, and once again, the audience gasped and applauded our rendition of the ancient dance. The awards ceremony came after an entire day of competition in age categories from 6 to over 60 years. The approximately 30 competitors in each age category were called to the floor, where places were announced from last to first. Since this was a competition of the champions of the 10 participating federations in Bavaria and North America, the placement of standings was very close. We were proud that out of 30, Jacob placed 24th , Jenny placed 20th , Don placed 11th, and Renee placed 4th – an amazing achievement that had all of us welling up with tears of pride and joy.
In 2004 members of our Kindergruppe were asked to take part dancing as the village children in the Ethnic Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” In May of 2004, longtime members Butch and Jeanne Schultz attended the 100th Anniversary of the “Loisachtaler” along with our Patenkind, Die Heimat Tänzer of Omaha, Nebraska.
In July of 2005 members of our Verein attended the 20th Gaufest in Buffalo, New York. Since we did not participate in the Gruppen Preisplatteln, we passed on the 8th Place “Toilet Seat” to the next winners – Maple Leaf Almrausch of Ottawa, Ontario. In October, members Jacob Schultz and Jenny Roehl celebrated their wedding, with the entire Verein in attendance.
In 2006 we hosted the Mittlewest Bezirks Heimatfest, with over 300 Trachtler attending from around the midwestern United States. At the Gauveband NOrdamerika Delegates Meeting in May, our Ehrenvorplattler, Mark LaCourse, realized his dream of being elected Gau Vorplattler. On a sadder note, in July we mourned the passing of Ehrenmitglied Bill LaCourse at age 85. This year we also welcomed the membership of Ryan Hoitnik, a Trachtler from D’Werdenfelser of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who moved to St. Paul for his job.
In 2007 members attended the 21st Gaufest in Hershey, PA. We received a thank you gift from Maple Leaf Almrausch - a miniature “outhouse” in recognition of our mutual 8th place finishing in the Gruppen Preisplatteln. We again experienced the tragic loss of loved ones from our membership, Melanie Langenfeld and Ehrenmitglied Don Wimmer. A happier occasion for the Verein was celebrating the wedding of longtime member Stephanie Betts to Anthony de San Lozzaro.
2008 was an exciting year filled with more marriage and the anticipation of the beginnings of planning for our new flag. We will be holding our Fahnenweihe in July 2010.
In August 2009, the 21st Gaufest was held in Toledo, Ohio. We once again entered the Gruppen Preisplattler and as luck would have it, we placed in 8th once more. The “Toilet Seat” was ours once again!! We also had 8 couples participate in the Einzelpreisplatteln and were thrilled to learn that Matthew La Course took 3rd Place in his age category and will be heading to Bavaria in 2010 to compete in the Bayrische Löwe. 2009 also marked the startof a new generation of SG Edelweiss members, as 3 new babies were born this year. We welcomed Nathaniel De Sam Lazaro, Jack Hoitink and Callie Beach to the Verein. With another expected in June of 2010.
Thanksgiving weekend found us traveling 12 hours by bus to ask GTEV Edelweiss Detroit if they ywould honor us and become our Patenverein. After a country western hoe-down on Friday evening, we spent the day Saturday celebrating the upcoming Christmas season with Detroit in Rochester, MI with Bavarian songs and music, then headed off to the hall for the Patenbitten ceremony. After passing the many “tests” and bribing them with gifts, they agreed and welcomed us as their newest Patenkind. Needless to say the 12 hour bus ride home was quite quiet.
As we move towards 2010 and our Fahnenweihe, we are extremely proud of every member of our Verein. The dedication to upholding our motto is as strong as ever and we look forward to keeping these customs and traditions alive for generations to come.