Area musicians played to a packed house of country music fans during the "Opry at the Sami" on Jan. 24, helping in a massive fund-raising effort to restore and renovate Mini-Wakan State Park's shelter house. Held in conjunction with the University of Okoboji's Winter Games, the event took place at the recently completed Sami Bedell Center for the Performing Arts in Spirit Lake.
"The show was a colossal success," said Jim Howard, organizer of the event. "This demonstration of community support will really help us with the Mini-Wakan project."
Restoration and renovation of the shelter house is expected to cost $1 million. The Spirit Lake Protective Association's Mini-Wakan Committee is spearheading the effort to raise the needed funds through grants and outright contributions. All proceeds from the concert, nearly $12,000, will benefit the shelter house project.
"We can't thank our performers enough for donating their time and talent," Howard said. "Members of the committee, Sami Center personnel. Spirit Lake School administrators, the Winter Games Committee, students, the media, and the appreciative audience - so many groups and individuals contributed to the success of this project," he added.
The Grand Ole Opry style country music show featured Emcee Rhonda Wedeking and Opry All Stars band members Steven O. Samuelson, Sr., Don Demers, Maury Muhm, Nate Newhouse, Jon Johnson, Bryon Kittleson and Billye Jane Kruse in company with performers Melinda (Mel) Kimblad, Gloria Wieneke, Wes Mager, Maceylyn Rossow, Harold Van Der Sloot, Dallas Clark, Dennis Wienke, and the Jessie James Band.
School Superintendent Doug Latham and Sami Center Director Terry Miller authorized use of the world class performing arts center. Several students volunteered to help produce the event.
The Light of the Lakes Friends Church provided the rehearsal site for the performers. Winter Games Chairperson Molly Gildemeister and the Winter Games Committee included the program as an addition to the 29th Annual University of Okoboji Winter Games.
Seventy-five years ago in the winter of 1933-34 young men belonging to Company 778 of the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Mini-Wakan shelter house and state park on twelve and one-half acres of land on the north shore of Big Spirit Lake.
The Spirit Lake Protective Association, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Great Lakes area community members are working closely together to achieve the Mini-Wakan restoration. The Iowa DNR is expected to partially fund the renovation. Mini-Wakan committee members are making grant applications to various funding bodies. In 2008 grants of $100,000 from the Okoboji Foundation and $5,600 from the Dickinson County Endowment Fund were received.
When complete, the renovated and restored Mini-Wakan shelter will be available to reserve from April to October for special functions such as weddings and reunions.
For more information visit the Spirit Lake Protective Association website, www.theslpa.org, and click on Mini-Wakan Project. Send donations to the Spirit Lake Protective Association, Mini-Wakan Shelter, P.O. Box 95, Spirit Lake, IA 51360.