Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Glenwood's ballroom comes back to life
Larger view
The original Lakeside Ballroom burned in 2003. Now a new ballroom has taken its place on Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood. It cost $2.4 million to build. (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
People in the west central Minnesota town of Glenwood are celebrating the grand opening of a community centerpiece, the Lakeside Ballroom. In 2003 the original Lakeside Ballroom, which stood on the shores of Lake Minnewaska for 90 years, burned down.

Glenwood, Minn. — There's a grand piano wedged into one corner of Betty Zuber's small Glenwood apartment. Dressed in a dark, velvety outfit, Zuber, who's 90, settles down on the piano bench. Her long red fingernails click against the keys as she begins to play one of her favorite songs, "Home."

Louis Armstrong performed the same song back in the 1950s when he appeared at Glenwood's Lakeside Ballroom. Zuber recalls other popular artists who played the Lakeside in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. They are names from another era -- Sammy Kay, Jan Garber and Guy Lombardo.

There's a black and white photo on Zuber's piano, marking the visit of another ballroom classic. It shows Zuber dancing with Lawrence Welk. Myron Floren is in the background with his accordion, and Betty's late husband Ervine is leading the band.

Ervine died in 1996, but for decades the couple graced the floor of Glenwood's Lakeside Ballroom during summer nights. Locals remember the two moving in perfect form -- Ervine with his sharp suits tailored to match Betty's fancy dresses. It's those vivid memories that made losing the ballroom that much harder for Betty.

"I couldn't believe it. It's always been there, it still bothers me," Zuber said.

The ballroom was nearly 100 years old when it burned to the ground in the summer of 2003. The open structure was a tinderbox. An electrical problem started a fire, and it went up in flames quickly.

Hundreds of residents like Barbara Marquardt came to watch the ballroom's final moments.

"We came, stood in the park, and watched until it was over. It was very sad day in Glenwood, lots of memories in the ballroom," Marquardt said.

It wasn't long before the folks in Glenwood were talking about rebuilding their beloved ballroom. And now a little over two years after the original burned down, a new Lakeside Ballroom sits on the shores of Lake Minnewaska.

Barbara Marquardt helped raise $400,000 in private donations for this building. Most of the rest of the $2.4 million pricetag was covered by an insurance check. Although the building is finished, officials are looking for about $200,000 more in donations.

Glenwood Mayor John Stone likes to show off his city's newest attraction. The maple dance floor is shiny and soft. It's padded, something Stone says dancers will appreciate.

"There is a little give there, so that when people are dancing on it, it isn't hard," Stone said.

Rebuilding the Lakeside was never in question, according to Stone. And in fact, this is now more than just a place to dance. There's an adjoining bar and restaurant, and space for conventions and meetings.

For her part, Betty Zuber says the old Lakeside Ballroom was a classic that can't be replaced, but she admits the new Lakeside Ballroom is pretty nice.

"It isn't like the old one, but we'll get used to it. And we're glad we've got it," Zuber said.

A few weeks ago, Zuber took a spin around the new ballroom at a dance in honor of her 90th birthday. Everyone else in town gets their chance to check out the new Lakeside Ballroom during the ballroom's grand opening Friday night.