BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The State Historical Society of North Dakota is considering buying the boyhood home of Lawrence Welk, though some worry the farmstead may not draw many tourists because most of the famed champagne music bandleader's fans have died or will do so soon.
So the organization proposes to use Welk's home in the tiny town of Strasburg to also highlight the importance of agriculture and the region's German-Russian heritage.
"Even with the Welk legacy aside, it's history worth preserving," said Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, who successfully fought this year to include funding for the bandleader's birthplace in the historical society's budget.
The idea comes two decades after Congress earmarked $500,000 to develop a tourist industry in Strasburg, including a museum of German-Russian heritage to draw visitors to Welk's birthplace. Embarrassed lawmakers later withdrew the money when the idea was mocked nationally as a symbol of wasteful spending.
Merl Paaverud, director of the historical society, said the agency's board meets July 12 and may decide whether to spend $100,000 on the six-acre parcel that includes the home where Welk and his seven siblings were born. The property is still owned by Welk's extended family and includes a barn, summer kitchen, granary, buggy house, blacksmith shop and outhouse.
The home, about 75 miles southeast of Bismarck, has been on the market since last fall.
"It's not a done deal," Paaverud said. "We'll be taking input from people, locals and interested parties."
Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, said he's a fan of the North Dakota-born bandleader — but he doesn't think the state should foot the bill for Welk's birthplace.
"It's just less money we could put toward tax relief, roads or whatever," Miller said.
North Dakota's newfound oil wealth has placed unprecedented demands on lawmakers for spending, from the mandatory to the absurd, Miller said.
"Just because people think we have lots of money people think they can come at us with ridiculous requests," he said.
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