Fond memories of big band, polka and rock bands

Mankato and Sioux Falls developers recently agreed to provide formal letters of interest in the George’s Ballroom property at Center and GermanStreet.

NEW ULM — Former New Ulm Mayor Terry Sveine was among local people with lots of fond memories of George’s Ballroom, the subject of redevelopment interest by Mankato and Sioux Falls-based companies.

Fisher Group of Mankato and Next Development Solutions of Sioux Falls made presentations about housing and retail development on the property to an eight-member advisory committee May 31.

Commissioner Dave Borchert told the county board the developers agreed to provide formal letters of interest to the committee before a decision is made.

The art deco ballroom, bowling alley, restaurant and bar at Center and German Street opened in 1947. The establishment was a big venue for big bands, polka music and later rock bands.

The building closed in 1991. It was acquired by Brown County in a tax foreclosure case. The ballroom reopened about 15 years later and hosted concerts with local rock bands before it closed again.

“It was the place to go meet young people. If you wanted to find a girl to dance with, George’s was the place to be,” Sveine said. “It was fun. I entered and won some dance contests, doing flips and twists at George’s.”

He recalled listening to True Don Blue and the Upper Division performing 50s and 60s music and the Jesse Brady band playing rock cover songs at George’s decades ago.

Sveine said his two sons and other area musicians played in local rock bands “The Tale of Two Towns” and “Polis” that played at George’s Ballroom after it re-opened about 15 years ago. Terry’s son Steve continues to play drums in the bands “Schell’s Angels” and “Lake Effect” that perform in New Ulm, the Twin Cities, Duluth and the iron range.

“We need some visual reminder of George’s if it’s demolished. The committee talked about maintaining the signage somewhere,” said Sveine. “Think of the economics. George’s brought hundreds of people to town.”

Deb Dubberly said she remembered the huge crowds at George’s that sometimes meant long waits to get into the ladies’ room.

New Ulm Mayor Kathleen Backer recalled what it was like after you got an invitation for a wedding dance at George’s.

“There was a rush to reserve a (ballroom) booth close to the floor,” Backer said. “Women usually carried large purses because it was bring your own bottle.”

“I remember being greeted by (ballroom owner) George Neuwirth when I came in,” said Backer. “They had weekly live entertainment. I worked at a carhop at Ebert’s drive-inn. When the ballroom closed for the night, we were flooded with vehicles. Lots of fond memories.”

Dennis Sperl of New Ulm described what it was like to enter George’s decades ago.

“George would sit in a chair in a blue-striped suit with a big cigar. His wife Ella sold popcorn,” said Sperl. “I sold admission tickets at New Year’s Eve dances and set pins in the (George’s) bowling alley.”

Nan Nonnemacher of Double Dimension hair salon in New Ulm said a lot of people met at George’s dances and got married.


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