Last dance for what is thought to be oldest ballroom in Minnesota?

Ida Weber drove four hours on Thursday, Oct. 26, to dance at the Withrow Ballroom and Event Center in northern Washington County, Minn."It's two hours up, and it's two hours down," said Weber, who lives in Claremont, Minn. "It's a nice ballroom. ...

Celia Schmidt, 90, center, from Shoreview, who is dressed as a witch, dances to "Skip to my Lou" with friends at Withrow Ballroom & Event Center in May Township Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Minnesota's oldest ballroom is going up for sale during a live auction on Nov. 11. Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press

Ida Weber drove four hours on Thursday, Oct. 26, to dance at the Withrow Ballroom and Event Center in northern Washington County, Minn.

"It's two hours up, and it's two hours down," said Weber, who lives in Claremont, Minn. "It's a nice ballroom. It's always good here, and they always have good bands, and it's just fun."

But Weber, who has been making the trek three times a month for the past several years, is worried about her dancing future.

The historic ballroom, which opened in 1928 and is thought to be the oldest ballroom in Minnesota, is being sold and is closing on Saturday, Oct. 28. Thursday afternoon's dance, which ran from 1 to 4 p.m. and featured the Top Notchmen, was the last polka dance on the schedule.

"I'm going to have to go to Rochester, Mankato, northern Iowa and Wisconsin," Weber said. "I don't want to, but I have to. I want to dance three times a week. I just love to dance. I've been dancing since I was a little girl, and I'm 81."


The last scheduled event at the Withrow is a Rockin' Hollywoods show from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

The ballroom and its 11,000 acres of land is being sold via a live online auction that will close on Nov. 11. Hines Auction Service of Ellsworth, Wis., is handling it. The asking price was $216,000; bidding was up to $215,500 as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

Owner Paul Bergmann bought the 10,000-square-foot ballroom in 2009. Also the owner of Bergmann's Nurseries in Stillwater, he recently sold the nursery's 21,000 acres near Manning Avenue and Minnesota 36 to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. The property had been in his family since the 1950s.

"At this point, I've got enough with the business closing down here in Stillwater," said Bergmann, 61, who lives in Stillwater and also farms about 500 acres near Marine on St. Croix. "I need to focus on this and the removal of the property. The ballroom is just more than I can handle right now."

Bergmann said he hopes the business will continue as a ballroom.

"I hope they get another owner who can try to nurture it like I tried to do, and keep the building and keep the dances and keep the same routine," he said. "I tried to do the best I could to keep the business going, but it's time for a new, fresh outlook."

'What better activity than dancing?'

On Thursday afternoon, Jim and Judy Haupt of Amery, Wis., twirled around the gleaming maple dance floor in matching blue-and-red country-western polka outfits.


"You look around, and you see all these older people - there are not a lot of young ones here," said Judy Haupt, who is 76. "Some are in their 90s, and they're dancing. What better activity than dancing?"

Jim Haupt, 72, said he began going to dances at the ballroom when he was 19. "Lord knows that's a lot of years ago," he said. "I met my first wife here, I've got to get that on record."

During a break after dancing the two-step, Judy Haupt got tears in her eyes as she talked about the closing. "We love this place," she said. "We have met so many nice people here."

One of the couples is Rex and Beverly Stearns of Mahtomedi. Rex Stearns, 85, has dementia, and Beverly Stearns, 78, said dancing at the Withrow is one of the few activities he can still enjoy.

"This is like his second home," she said. "He loves to dance. He knows the songs. Dancing is it - that's all he knows - me and dancing. We love this place. We could go to other places to dance, but he won't recognize the buildings. He won't recognize the set-up."

"We're like a big family here," said Larry Hoff of Roberts, Wis. "We're going to miss it."

Hoff met his wife, Sharon, at a dance 55 years ago - they've been dancing together ever since, he said.

"I came to a dance not knowing anyone," he said. "I saw a couple of guys that I knew and went over and talked to them. Her brother was there. She came over to talk to him. At the time she was 16, and I said, 'Hey, would you like to dance?' "


A polka band played at their 50th anniversary party.

"All the young people who were there were saying 'You know how to enjoy life,'" Sharon Hoff said. "They said, 'Everybody is so happy and enjoying life and having fun. You guys know how to do it.' We're going to miss this."

If you go

The Withrow Ballroom will hold its last dance Saturday night with a performance by the Rockin' Hollywoods. Advanced tickets are sold out; a limited number of standing-room-only $15 tickets will be sold at the door. For more information, call 651-439-5123or go to

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