The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 14, 2013

'Play group' has party tradition

For 40 years, these Mankato-area couples have been throwing themed parties

In 1982, they threw a wedding-themed party, where each participant took on a role and some of them put on a costume. In 1975, they had a “male chauvinist” party where the men did all the work.

In the fall of 2011, a backyard was turned into a mini golf course for a “Masters” theme. One evening in 2004, the guests wore wigs and learned about wine. One guest, Geri Schmidt, had to lie down in the car so her purple high-top wig would fit.

During a prom-themed party, in 2006, the guests had to ask each other to “prom,” held in a dance hall.

Another time, a couple set up a mini county fair in their backyard, complete with a petting zoo, a beer garden, food on a stick and games. The guests registered to bring gifts, which were auctioned off and the proceeds given to a food shelf.

This group of 10 Mankato-area friends, now in their 50s and 60s, has been having themed parties for 40 years. They’ve stuck together — through two births and two deaths (no divorces) — and credit the club’s longevity to a fondness for each other’s company.

“I think it’s lasted so long because the ladies do most of the work,” said Gary Schmidt.

Gwyn Outka figures it’s lasted so long because the friends know they are there for each other.

They also like to have fun.

“We don’t like to sit around,” said Lynn Bentzen. “We love to entertain.”

Their mission, McCarty-Scheurer says, is very simple: Think up unique ideas for parties and play along with the host.

The group started in 1974 with a core of young women who belonged to the service sorority Beta Sigma Phi. A few couples came and went, but five of the original group — one of them with a different husband — still attend every gathering. The most junior couple, Harry and Bonnie Hunt, has been with the group for 13 years.

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