Birdhouse event marks 20th year in city

by TaLeiza Calloway –

Five-year-old Connor May liked the sound an electric drill made as the bit twirled. It was hard at times for his parents to keep it from him during the 20th annual birdhouse night March 18. The boy was eager to finish the construction of his first wren house.

Connor’s father, Stephen May, of St. Joseph, said the event serves as a nice outing for children. This was their first time at the free event sponsored by the St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club and held at the American Legion in St. Joseph.

Within the first hour of the event, more than 30 people showed up to make various styles of wren, bluebird and wood duck houses out of wood. Traffic remained steady throughout the event despite an anticipated blizzard.

“This is a good turnout,” Ken Hiemenz said. “If there’s no wood left when we’re done then it will be a super turnout.”

Hiemenz, president of the St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club, said they rarely have any wood left over from the event. Attendees can make as many houses as they want, but there’s a catch. They must put each house up, club members said.

Jared Scholz, 12, of St. Joseph, was already thinking about where the several birdhouses he made would go. Even though it was his first try at birdhouse building, he looked like a pro.

“It was fun,” Scholz said. “I just hope we can put them up.”

Al Kalla, chairman of the event, said they can go up during this time of year but will last longer if they’re painted first. As is, they will last at least 10 years, he said. If painted, another five years of use is likely.

The annual event is something the St. Joseph area has continued to embrace throughout the years, with many returning for the activity. The event usually results in production of  about 20 wood duck houses, 100 bluebird houses and 50 wren houses.

“We started this because we wanted to do something for the community,” Kalla said. “Now this is our 20th year.”

While this year marks 20, it was the first for 13-year-old Ashley Thelen. The St. Joseph resident came with her friend, Ilsa Shobe. The girls admitted it wasn’t too hard to make a bluebird house, and they thought it was fun. Shobe is a veteran of the event.

“I came when I was real little,” Shobe said, “but I’m mostly here for my little brother.”

The St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club donated all the wood used for the event. Birdhouses were cut in advance by retired carpenter and club members Kalla, Peter Giroux, Al Diedrich, Mike Westerhoff, Ron Rennie and Marvin Bierschbach. Kalla said all supplies used for the event were donated by Ace Hardware and Manion’s.

[/media-credit] St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club member Ron Rennie helps Ilsa Shobe (center), 13, and St. Joseph resident Ashley Thelen, 13, make a bluebird house March 18 during the 20th annual birdhouse night in St. Joseph.

[/media-credit] Connor May, 5, of St. Joseph, puts together parts of a wren house March 18 during the 20th annual birdhouse night in St. Joseph.

[/media-credit] Jared Scholz, 12, of St. Joseph, drills in a nail to add the final side to a wren house March 18 in St. Joseph.

[/media-credit] Members of the St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club pre-cut wood for the 20th annual birdhouse night in St. Joseph. They are (left to right) Ron Rennie, Marvin Bierschbach, Peter Giroux, Mike Westerhoff and Al Kalla.

TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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