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submitted photo The Nary Community Center will play host to a holiday program on Saturday. The event starts with a potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m.

A rebirth with an old-fashioned show

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BEMIDJI — Siblings Olivia and Wayne Hoff, are confident their neighbors in Helga Township will be at Nary Community Center on Dec. 21 for an old-fashioned township holiday party.

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Wayne Hoff said he remembers when driver Glen Ball would pick up the people who wanted to go to the holiday play and bring them home in the school bus. Nary School’s band director, Vaner Tangborn, grandfather to the Hoffs, would strike up the band for the excited audience of parents, relatives and friends.

Wayne remembers how much fun the townspeople had socializing but, as is the life of farmers, time passes much too quickly and the fest fell away to more modern entertainment such as cable television, he said. The last play was held in 1969, and selected parts of the set still decorate the old school stage.

Members of the township board, notably Don Clay, Mark Lawyer and Joanna Hammarstrom, have been helping make the dream of a return of the Nary Community Center a reality. A few months ago, the site was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places by the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Board. That opens the door for grants and donations.

Many volunteers have already been busy buffing the floors and hanging curtains across the stage in anticipation of the Dec. 21 event. The public is invited to a 5:30 p.m. potluck dinner and wassail, provided by Nary residents. Strolling violinists Andy Abello and Sophia Belling will play the sweet sounds of Christmas carols along with some of Wayne’s piano students. Santa Claus also will make an appearance.

After the light dinner, the evening will continue with a walk upstairs to the old school auditorium outfitted with chairs set auditorium style.

“The program is a play within a play,” Wayne said. “My sister, Olivia, wrote a play about the town of Nary and her people. The TrekNorth choir had their concert the other night and  director, Talia Zeman, agreed to bring her singers to perform. Another smaller ensemble from TrekNorth will sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Board” reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. My grandfather put together the Nary Community Band for concerts during the depression and World War II.”

A traditional Christmas play written by Ardean Brasgalla for the Trinity Lutheran Players of Cass Lake will follow. This production promises to be an old fashioned farm-country Christmas for families of all generations.

Only the beginning But Saturday’s celebration of the Nary Community Center is just the beginning, with many other events are already scheduled.

The township is looking forward to hosting social events such as bridal showers and weddings, utilizing the well-equipped kitchen and reception hall. A security system is installed and the committee is looking to complete other housekeeping challenges such as making the building handicapped accessible.

The township has already spent about $100,000 on extensive renovations to the first floor of the building. The top floor of the building, which houses additional classroom space and an auditorium that fits about 200 people, is next on the list for upgrading.

“We’re not really interested in creating a museum as such, but we are interested in making this a living, breathing venue for all ages with a rich array of historical features,” he said. “Our parents, Art and Luella Hoff, my cousins, aunts, uncles and friends spent many an hour learning and playing here; echoes from the past can still be heard in their memories.”

Hoff said they are looking forward to community education, civic or music events. Equipment and furnishings need to be purchased, he said. The committee is hoping for donations, which can be sent to Wayne Hoff at 50638 County Road 6, Bemidji, MN 56601. Checks should be made out to Helga Township with “building fund” in the memo.

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