Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 14, 2002

They all were there at Winsted's Grand Opening Ball in 1896

By Joe Kieser

This is only a story. Some of the events are probable only.

The masoners and carpenters were just giving their final touches to the new city hall in Winsted. Interior decorators were painting the walls and shining up the dance floor.

Word of mouth and the bulletin boards of the local communities were announcing the Grand Opening Ball. Wednesday evening, Jan. 1, 1896 was the date chosen for this grand event.

Mothers and fathers were giving dance lessons to their sons and daughters.

Every time a new home, barn, chicken coop, or grainery was completed, they would have a dance. Generally, a two-piece band like The Schieber or Deidrick boys would provide the music and entertainment.

Holcomb's combination orchestra had been practicing for several months. J. Stibal, along with I. K. Lewis, Geo. Lancaster, C. Vogel, J. Steiner, Hans Brandser, L. Kegler, Otto Borgersrode, Jr., Ben Klaus, Fred Fasching, W. F. Kohler, Ed. Wathrous, Chas. Cole, and Ed Wiggs were all band members.

Mr. I. K. Lewis and Geo. Lancaster were in charge of all arrangements. The small village was now nine years old and looked quite festive in the winter setting.

Cutters and bobsleds were arriving on the streets of Winsted. Each family, dressed in their Sunday best, was ready for the grand ball to begin. They came from the areas of Oster, Rassat, Highland, Sherman, Bergen and Hollywood. Waverly, Howard Lake, Lester Prairie, and Watertown were all well represented.

The wooden sidewalk and the long flight of stairs had a constant flow of people. Mr. Bert Hainlin of Winsted, Mr. West Wooley of Howard Lake, and Mr. J. J. Quinn of Waverly greeted everyone as they arrived.

A young lady was one of the first people to arrive. This was her "coming-out party" and she looked real sharp in her new cotton dress.

She received a dance card when greeted at the door. Several of the young men were eager to sign up for each dance.

On one end of the hall was a large platform. It must be a place to set the keg so you can see it from anyplace on the floor. The floor was the most beautiful that they had ever seen. Ribbons and banners hung from the walls and ceiling.

Some were hesitant to sign a dance card that they had trouble reading. A waltz, polka, schottische, and minuette they knew, but what is this word "quadrille?" How could you possibly dance to something that you could not pronounce?

The bell in the tower began to ring. Bert Hainlin welcomed everyone, introduced the committee and band members, and gave a short speech on the new city hall.

Mr. Elmer found his dance partner for the grand march. Everyone participated in the quite formal march and first dance.

Then, something quite amazing happened. "The caller" jumped up on what they called the stage! "Grab your partners" was his first command.

Violins became fiddles, the quadrille was actually a square dance and they all felt more at home. Shoes soon became a pile in the corner. Men pulled their ties just slightly from their necks. Women adjusted their corsets one notch looser. The city fathers had a lot of foresight to build the hall on a large rock foundation.

Mrs. Fritz (Sarah) Moy had a lunch prepared for everyone. Lifetime friends from other communities were made, and maybe, even a few lifetime partners were introduced.

After the lunch, someone started to clap. Everyone joined in until the band got back on stage. They danced and enjoyed themselves until the wee hours of the morning.

They walked or let their teams find their way back home in the cold January air.

Their mood became quite somber as they realized that they had just witnessed one of the great events of the young village of Winsted.


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