Volunteers to fix band leader Welk's boyhood home

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm •  Published: July 7, 2014
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Volunteers are being recruited from across the country to help make repairs to the boyhood home of famous band leader Lawrence Welk in southern North Dakota.

The three-day effort begins on Aug. 1 at the property near Strasburg. Volunteers will be treated to German food and entertainment after the second day of work.

Organizers have relied on word-of-mouth and social media to advertise the event, said Carmen Rath-Wald, president of the Tri-County Tourism Alliance, which promotes the region's German-Russian culture.

Wald said about 200 people are expected to turn out for the event, including many from out of state who are originally from the region or are die-hard Welk fans.

"It's pretty amazing," Wald said. "People either want to volunteer some of their time or through donations."

The State Historical Society of North Dakota voted 6-5 in January to buy the Strasburg homestead from Welk's nieces, Evelyn Schwab, 84, and Edna Schwab, 80. The property in the southern part of the state had been listed for sale for more than a year, with an asking price of $125,000.

The Historical Society did not negotiate a purchase price at the time of the January vote. The Legislature last year allocated $100,000 for the purchase of the 6-acre homestead, but stipulated repairs must be made first. The purchase agreement itself is contingent on negotiated repairs being done to the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The historical society also envisions the property as a tourist destination to tout the importance of agriculture and the region's German-Russian heritage.

Merl Paaverud, director of the historical society, called the restoration project "a great cultural event."

"It's nice to see that kind of support," he said of the volunteer effort.