The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 25, 2006

New owner out to revive Gibbon institution

Ballroom gets new name — and new owner with fresh ideas

GIBBON — The question on many Gibbon area folks’ lips: With the Gibbon Entertainment Center opening, will Polka Days be resurrected?

Co-owner Randy Grages, 1974 Gaylord High School graduate of Litchfield, still isn’t sure yet. For now, he’s been busy getting the former Gibbon Ballroom fixed up and ready to do business as a supper club and entertainment venue after almost two years of closure.

But Polka Days — a 34-year tradition in Gibbon that attracted thousands of polka fans over several days each year before it ended in 2004 — is a possibility. The festival was so popular, PBS did a piece on its impending end several years ago when former owner Dick Seeboth of New Ulm put the ballroom up for sale.

“It was a huge party,” said Elmer Maciejewski of Avon, who attended Polka Fest every year for 20 years before it ended. “People from every state in the union were there.”

The polka festival aside, Grages has a summer full of activities planned at the entertainment center. It began last Saturday night with a concert by Deep Fried Tweeters, a classic rock band. The rest of the summer schedule, to include live music every Friday and Saturday night, is filling up fast.

The main changes to the old ballroom will be the restaurant and events schedule. (See accompanying box.)

The kitchen has been upgraded and a new bar built in the former Pumpernickel Room, which will house the Fireside Restaurant and Lounge, Seeboth said.

The restaurant, with several fireplaces, will serve a varied menu from burgers to filet mignon.

Seeboth, a Brown County commissioner, said he hopes Grages is able to bring vitality back to the ballroom. During the 1970s, the venue was the place to go for residents from all over the region.

“Back then it wasn’t unusual for people to take a hundred-mile road trip on a Friday or Saturday night,” Seeboth said. “The cost of it wasn’t much. It was just 25 cents a gallon for gasoline.”

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