by Mike Nistler
Picture-perfect weather, great food and wonderful entertainment drew thousands to St. Joseph for what is becoming one of the best small-town festivals in Minnesota.
An estimated 35,000 people poured into the city for the event that was held under sunny skies and temps in the low 80s — a welcome relief after last year’s humidity-filled 100-degree temps that kept many folks away.
The festival is a fundraiser for the Church of St. Joseph, and it all starts with the Joetown Rocks Concert the night before Independence Day. As a rule, enough sponsorships help pay for the musical offerings with the church getting the money raised from concessions.
Volunteers fuel the events as more than 1,000 help to run concessions, work security and, of course, clean up.
Again this year, the Joe Burgers were a hot seller as could be attested by the number of people carrying them around in stacks and dishing them out to family and friends.
The musical offerings of the first evening were provided by a local group of four youngsters called 4 Below Zero. Of course, in all of the music there had to be a member of Bobby Vee’s family and there was. His grandson, Bennett Vee, only 11, played drums. His grandfather and grandmother fondly looked on as the next generation took over the baton. In past years, Bobby Vee and his sons have entertained the crowds.
4 Below Zero consists of a couple of other St. Joseph residents: Will Leach, 14, on lead guitar and Travis Brattensborg, 14, on bass. The group is rounded out by vocalist Charlie Stuck, 13, St. Cloud.
The next group to take the stage was the Receders, a St. Cloud-based band who has been entertaining local audiences for a quarter of a century with their rendition of popular cover songs.
But perhaps the biggest draw of the evening was the “Takin’ It To the Limit: A Tribute to the Eagles” portion of the program presented by the combined talents of St. Cloud-based musicians the Fabulous Armadillos and Collective Unconscious.
This group of all-star musicians didn’t disappoint. One of the highlights was when St. Joseph resident and business owner Jeff Engholm was teased by his bandmates as being “Mayor of St. Joe.” Engholm, the lead singer for Collective Unconscious, laughed the tribute off and acknowledged the real mayor of St. Joseph, Rick Schultz.
Following the Eagles’ music, fireworks wowed the audience until the last band of the night, the Shalo Lee Band, closed out the festivities.
But it was back at it bright and early the next day as folks lined the streets with their chairs and blankets to reserve a spot for the 10 a.m. St. Joseph Lions Club parade featuring some 120 units.
The parade began with the Color Guard of the American Legion of St. Joseph marching with flags held high. Those in the crowd stood, removed their caps and clapped.
People in patriotic garb hooted and whistled and the units passed by, including that of Grand Marshal Pete Jansky, retiring St. Joseph police chief.
“It was super,” Jansky said of the experience of getting to ride in the parade.
Generally, Jansky is working during the festival.
“This is the first time I got to see the whole parade route,” he said. “We had a good time.”
Jansky, who officially retires Aug. 22, said it was a a thrill to see so many people waving and smiling.
From a law enforcement perspective, Jansky said the two-day event “went very well. We had very little trouble. Between the people who worked security from the church and the officers we had on, we had very little trouble.”
When asked where he’ll be next year at this time, Jansky said “soaking my tootsies in a lake somewhere.”
And of course, any unit throwing candy on the street was a big hit with the children, many who carried empty ice cream buckets to pick up and hold their stash of goodies.