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Go to work at Welk homestead

Despite expected challenges and assorted bumps in the road, progress toward establishing the Lawrence Welk homestead in Emmons County as a North Dakota historic site is moving along at a good pace. The homestead, near Strasburg, was purchased with conditions by the state Historical Society, which will take over the site about a year from now, pending final approval of the purchase from the Welk family.

Meanwhile, a volunteer effort to repair and restore the buildings is underway. Led by the local Tri-County Tourism Alliance, volunteers will converge on the site in early August to fix the barn and make other cosmetic and structural repairs to several buildings. The alliance invited volunteers, and is engaged in a fundraiser to offset the cost of materials.

Thus far, the plan to restore the homestead is going mostly as planned. The local alliance and the Historical Society recognize the importance of the homestead, not only as bandleader Lawrence Welk’s boyhood home but also as a touchstone for the history and heritage of the Germans from Russia who settled in the towns and farms of the area. That’s the foundational importance of the site in North Dakota history.

While a few shortsighted members of the Historical Society voted against the purchase, a majority understood the enduring importance of the homestead as a place to showcase and celebrate the region’s rich history. In that regard, the Welk home is not unlike Icelandic State Park, which preserves and honors Icelandic settlement in northeast North Dakota; or Minot’s Norsk Hostfest, which celebrates Scandinavian heritage every fall on the grounds of the State Fair; or the many American Indian sites managed by the Historical Society.

The deal is not done, but it’s close. Meanwhile, volunteers who want to help with the repair and restoration should reserve the weekend of Aug. 1-3, when the alliance will coordinate the work at the homestead near Strasburg. To volunteer, call Clarence Hertz at (701) 799-4081.

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