From a magazine called Minnesota Moments:
They were once as common in small towns as bars and ball fields.
Ballrooms flourished in cities throughout the state, but especially in Central Minnesota where communities such as New Munich and St. Wendel were known for their ballrooms.
One of the most notable was the New Munich Ballroom, which became popular in Stearns County for its central location. The grand opening occurred on May 27, 1932. And while dancing was on the menu, the dance hall early on was known for its rollerskating which took place three nights a week.
The music changed over the decades. Whoopee John belted out polkas and Lawrence Welk brought waltzes to the maple floor in the 1930s and ‘40s. Bobby Vee and Conway Twitty headlined as did Sherwin Linton in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Johnny Holm was a mainstay in the ‘70s and ‘80s and Joan Jett brought her leathers on stage as well.
The New Munich Ballroom’s 66-year run came to an end when it burned to the ground on Jan. 8, 1998. Things had wound down for many ballrooms by that time. The 1980s saw stiffer drinking laws and dance halls were continually getting bad reputations for the fighting and vandalism that occurred on dance nights. Attendance slowed, as did the bands that performed.
Today, a few dance halls remain, including the Playland Ballroom in Kimball, where this author listened to the likes of The Rockin’ Hollywoods and Johnny Holm in the 1970s. But instead of big-time dances, now chicken dinners and wedding dances are more common.
As Larry and I peruse the early Pierz Journals, the dances and get-togethers were mostly house parties, a barn dance or two, and a few advertised events upstairs at Muellers, but no regular events that would attract young people. 'Course, we're talking 1909-1913 there.
The 1940-80s were the Big Dance era around here, I think. But, were there really many ballrooms/dance halls around?
Just from memory, I came up with eleven: Granite City Coliseum, Del-Win in St Joe, Benton Co. Fairgrounds Ballroom, the original Civic Center in St Cloud, Sartell Ballroom, Pelican Lake Ballroom, the Falls Ballroom in Little Falls, Pierz Funhouse (now Pierz Ballroom and Lanes), Cedar Point Ballroom in St Augusta, plus the three mentioned in the article above, New Munich, St Wendel, and Playland (now Generations Ballroom). I know I'm missing some, too.
(But, only the red ones are still in business). Whew. So, what changed?
What made them popular in the first place, and what caused them to fade? For my generation, the 60s were a rebellion against what we considered ridiculous social restrictions...much like the 20s were to that generation. What some flappers had, and what we had even more, was mobility and free time. A car to pick up friends and plenty of time the next day to sleep-in. We could range farther than earlier generations, too, depending on where a favorite band was playing. Of course, the ballrooms didn't make it on once-a-week dances. Weddings, banquets and meetings on other days of the week as well as roller skating helped the bottom line because the bar was open during most of them.
Their demise seems to be, these days at least, that there are many more alternatives for wedding, meeting and banquet venues, and dance bands...? I don't know, do they exist anymore? Liquor laws are tighter now, too. Maybe bars today are the same thing, only smaller?
Ok, that's what we came up with by bedtime last night ☺. Your opinion is welcome, as always, in the comments!