News Sartell St. Joseph — 24 July 2014
Big crowds have a ball at Centennial bash

by Dennis Dalman

Fortunately, the weather forecasters were wrong. It didn’t rain on the parade or any of the other festivities as thousands of people gathered July 18-20 to celebrate St. Stephen’s Centennial.

At times, a threat of rain hung in the air, but the overcast skies Saturday were welcomed by the crowds because everyone knew how hot and oppressive it would have been with a full sun blazing down.

Everyone seemed to have a fun, laid-back time at the activities, which included a classic-car show, baseball games, a 90-unit parade, three musical shows, a polka Mass, raffles, a tractor show and more.

Saturday, the downtown streets were jam-packed with spectators who enjoyed the parade. Many of the units paid tribute to St. Stephen’s long history, in particular its agricultural heritage and the fact it’s the oldest continuous Slovenian town in the nation, with first immigrants from Slovenia (then part of the Austrian Empire) arriving in the mid-1880s. Many of the parade’s floats demonstrated a sly sense of humor, poking some fun at old-fashioned “hillbilly” folkways. One float featured a pioneer family – the Ma busy with a fussy baby, a laid-back bearded Pa doing nothing and a screechy-voiced nagging granny.

The guest of honor in the parade was Dr. H.E. Bozo Cerar (pronounced Boh-zho Chair-RAHR), the ambassador to the United States from the Republic of Slovenia.

Another guest of honor, cheered by the crowds, was Eddie Peternell, who – at age 102 – is not only the oldest St. Stephen resident, born and raised there, but two years older than the city’s charter founding, 1914.

Later, after the parade in the Smoley Park ballfield, Cerar and Peternell met as a crowd of proud, smiling family members and well-wishers gathered ‘round. Bending over Peternell in his wheel chair, Cerar congratulated Peternell, the two engaged in pleasant exchanges and then Cerar presented him with a proclamation from Slovenia in honor of St. Stephen’s Centennial.

Before meeting Peternell, Cerar addressed the ballpark audience.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to participate in this joyous event,” he said.

Cerar said he and others in the Republic of Slovenia are keenly aware and appreciative of how so many in St. Stephen, Minn. are so supportive of preserving the Slovenian heritage and culture.

Throughout the Centennial events, many people could be seen wearing traditional colorful Slovenian costumes, including Cerar, who – while in the parade – wore breeches, a black velvet vest and an Alpine hat with a bright-red flower affixed to it.

“Culture means a lot – maybe everything,” he said, mentioning the many poets, painters and authors of his native country – the transmitters of culture. “Culture is the basis for who we are.”

Cerar said he is impressed the way many in St. Stephen still retain with pride some of the language, music and cuisine of the old country “across the pond.”

Central Minnesota, he said, is so beautiful with its greenery, its lakes and rivers that it reminds him of parts of eastern Slovenia.

Cerar then presented St. Stephen Mayor Cindy Vanderweyst a proclamation honoring St. Stephen from the Slovenian government.

Other speakers on the ballpark stage included those who brought congratulations, including State Rep. Tim O’Driscoll; and a representative of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who said Bachmann intends to put a proclamation honoring St. Stephen into the Congressional Record.

Two other special guests, singing with Sherwin Linton’s The Cotton Kings, were sisters Pam Linton (nee Pam Trobec) and Brittany Allyn (nee Patti Trobec). Both girls, raised in St. Stephen, daughters of Tom and Nettie Trobec, demonstrated remarkable musical talents as children. Both joined the Sherwin Linton Band shortly after high school. Pam later married Sherwin Linton, and Patti married Linton’s son, making the elder Sherwin both her father-in-law and brother-in-law. In time, Patti moved to Nashville, where she began to write songs and make recordings. For many years, she was a backup singer for the late, legendary George Jones until Jones died about a year ago.

At the ballpark, The Cotton Kings performed two sets of sizzling, foot-stomping country-western-rock with a couple of teary-eyed ballads thrown in for good measure. Sherwin Linton, accompanied by the two sisters, belted out powerful, blues-tinged vocal versions of classics like Hank Williams’ Your Cheatin’ Heart; the Frank Sinatra standard I Would Love You Anyway; a rousing love song penned by Allyn called If I’m Standing Next to You When I Fall, and a tearjerker sung by Pam called No Charge, a clever and touching story about the strong bond of love between a mother and her little boy.

After an intermission, The Cotton Kings performed a tribute to the music of Johnny Cash.

Throughout the first musical set, Allyn – between songs – shared some of the memories from her beloved hometown, St. Stephen.

“This is a big day for our city,” she said. “It’s all about people. Otherwise we’d just be a spot on a map. I’m very proud to be from St. Stephen.”

Allyn said her many years of traveling the nation as part of the George Jones Show and seeing so many places made her appreciate the downhome goodness of St. Stephen.

Allyn also gave nods to people she knows in St. Stephen, some of them in the audience, such as a cousin Bonnie Trobec Weske, who did the graphic design for Allyn’s Christmas CD.

In a nostalgic mood, Allyn recalled how she loved country-western music as long as she could remember. Her father was a big Marty Robbins fan. At her Aunt Betty’s and her grandparents houses, there were always fat stacks of sheet music to country-western songs and other popular tunes. Those piles of sheet music were treasure troves for Patti and older sister Pam.

“I think I sang every one of those songs then,” she said. “I remember one of them was a sheet of music with a forest-green cover and a picture of Hank Williams on it. The name of the song was Your Cheatin’ Heart. I figured if I was going to learn to sing country-western, Hank Williams was a good place to start.”

Allyn and the band then launched into a scorching, rip-snorting version of the Williams’ classic that had the audience panting for more.

Allyn recalled how she auditioned for George Jones. The song she chose, which got her the job, was her version of Marty Robbins’ You Got Me Singin’ the Blues. She, Pam and the band then performed a rollicking cover of that song.

Just before evening fell, the band 21 Mile Limit took the stage and performed sets of songs that had the audience smiling and dancing.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Three powerhouse performers, including two sisters, belt out a rocking country-western song at the St. Stephen Centennial party July 19. Pam (Trobec) Linton (left) is married to The Cotton Kings’ bandleader Sherwin Linton (middle). Brittany Allyn, nee Patti Trobec (right) is a Nashville recording artist who sang backup for years for the legendary George Jones.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Two girls enjoy driving down the parade route in their antique jalopy.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Children and adults are fascinated and amused by the sight of an alpaca and a turtle together in the petting zoo at the St. Stephen Centennial celebration.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Three of the percussionists from the Sartell High School Marching Band take part in the St. Stephen Centennial Parade July 19.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Three firefighters create a tableau to remind parade-goers of the many sacrifices made by fire-department personnel in the history of St. Stephen and the history of the nation.

photo by Dennis Dalman
The Republic of Slovenia’s U.S. ambassador, Dr. H.E. Bozo Cerar, presents a proclamation from his country for the City of St. Stephen to its oldest resident, Eddie Peternell, 102. Of Slovenian descent, Peternell was born on a farm just north of St. Stephen and spent his entire life farming in St. Stephen. Both Peternell and Cerar were the top guests of honor for St. Stephen’s Centennial Celebration July 18-20.

photo by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell High School Marching Band entertains the thousands of people who lined up for the St. Stephen Centennial Parade July 19 on the city’s main street.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Nashville recording artist and former St. Stephen resident Brittany Allyn, during a break from signing autographs, chats with a fan. In the background is St. Stephen resident Frank Vouk, who helped organize the celebration.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Expecting hot sun and the St. Stephen Centennial Parade to begin, brothers Grant and Henry Donabauer of Rice practice using a shade umbrella. As it turned out, the parade took place during pleasantly overcast weather – not too hot – with a breath of gentle breeze.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Flag bearers for the Sartell High School Marching Band flow down the street during the St. Stephen Centennial Parade.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Belgian horses pulling a wagon were a crowd-pleaser during the St. Stephen Centennial Parade July 19.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Grand Marshal Dr. H.E. Bozo Cerar, ambassador from the Republic of Slovenia, wears a traditional Slovenian outfit as he rides in a horse-drawn carriage. Later in the day, Cerar later addressed an audience, telling them what a pleasure it was to visit St. Stephen, a city that keeps the Slovenian heritage alive.

photo by Dennis Dalman
A couple dances to the music of The Cotton Kings, which is led by Sherwin Linton and his wife, Pam, who grew up in St. Stephen as Pam Trobec.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Marge Pryately of St. Cloud is one of many people who dressed in traditional Slovenian costumes at the St. Stephen Centennial Parade July 19. Pryately is a member of KSKJ (American-Slovenian Catholic Union), which is dedicated to preserving Slovenian culture in the United States and elsewhere. KSKJ is one of many such lodges throughout the nation.

photo by Dennis Dalman
A genuine historical behemoth, a Case steam-engine tractor, was one of many tractors and other agricultural artifacts that reminded parade-goers of the importance of agriculture in St. Stephen’s long history, which actually stems back to 1858 when Slovenian immigrants settled in the area.

photo by Dennis Dalman
St. Stephen’s oldest resident, Eddie Peternell (right), rides in a vehicle that is as old as he is – 102 years.

photo by Dennis Dalman
Dr. H.E. Bozo Cerar, the U.S. ambassador from the Republic of Slovenia, chats with two visitors to St. Stephen during its centennial celebration July 19. The visitors were Ben and Bev Kochmann of St. Cloud. For Bev, it was a thrill to meet the ambassador because both sets of her grandparents emigrated from Slovenia (then part of Austria) in the 1800s.

photo by Dennis Dalman
People relax while enjoying snacks during the St. Stephen Centennial festivities at the Smoley Park ballfield just north of the city.



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About Author

Dennis Dalman
Dennis Dalman Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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