The 2018 Ethnic Fest button.

by Otto Ringle

My sister and I were walking down the middle of Cleveland Boulevard during Ethnic Fest and when we came in front of the house in which we were raised, we past six or seven tourist gals who were walking in the opposite direction. I said to them, “Only in Walker, Minn., can you walk down the middle of the street and listen to the beautiful words of ‘Danny Boy’ being played in the distance!”

They laughed and we all continued on. The “Mactir Academy of Irish Dance” was performing on Stage Two under the tent between Orton’s and Benson’s and we could hear them playing. When they were finished with “Danny Boy,” they continued with the beautiful song, “Over The Rainbow.”

We were almost at my place, but we had to stop and listen to the most pleasing words, that brought tears to our eyes when we heard, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

We are truly fortunate to live in only a very small part of this wonderful world — Walker, Minn., — the City on the Bay, and the gals at the Chamber and their committee indeed deserve a huge compliment for bringing such a diverse amount of talent to our little town.

Seeing the six or seven tourist gals reminded me of the joke Kevin Locke told during his unbelievable hoop dancing on Stage Four at Piggy’s. “Do you know why we call this time of the year ‘Indian Summer,’ ” he asked. With three hoops around his neck, three hoops on each arm and three hoops around each leg, he answered his own question, “We call this time of the year Indian Summer because that’s when all the tourists go home and we can enjoy our beautiful country!”

Kevin Locke is a Native-American himself and was only kidding when he told the joke, as he along with all of us, truly appreciate all the visitors who come to Walker — and we sincerely hope they will come back again.

Before his hoop dance, Kevin educated us with some of his combined Lakota and Anishinaabe heritage and culture and continued with a performance with his indigenous Northern Plains Indian flute. When Kevin was finished with his extremely strenuous and energetic part of the program, the Anishinaabe Drum and Dance Group were dancing and at 64 years old, Kevin was dancing right along with them!

And what a parade it was that morning! A parade full of music — music from all over the world! I am not prejudiced of course, but I thought the entry of Shores of Leech deserved a prize for both beauty and entertainment. The float was decorated with an array of the fall colors that abound our forests at this time of the year and the entertainment on the float was the always popular and always welcomed Edelweiss Alphorn Duo.

Becky Jyrkas and Vicky Wheeler have been coming to Ethnic Fest for many, many years and always stay at Shores of Leech. Becky couldn’t come this year, but Vicky very fortunately was able to obtain Dr. Peggy DeMers, all the way from Houston, Texas. Dr. DeMers is an associate professor of the alphorn at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas, and after only one afternoon in Walker, we have learned to call her just plain, “Peg”!

In fact, Peg, Vicky and I were talking together and were trying to figure out a way that we could get an entire fleet of alphorn players to come to Walker for next year’s Ethnic Fest. Wouldn’t it be fun to see rows and rows of those mammoth instruments played by those little gals in next year’s parade!

One time, when my two boys were skiing the Jungfrau in Switzerland, I tried to play the alphorn and couldn’t get it to make a sound. Somehow those little gals are able to get a beautiful melody out of the huge musical instrument.

We spent the entire afternoon going from one stage to another. We heard Andres, Herriges and Wright on Stage One at Zona Rosa, Heather and Thistle Pipes and Drums on Stage Three at Portage Brewing and Skal Klubben Spelmanslag on Stage Two at Benson’s.

It was time to eat and what better place to end up our musical afternoon than with an appetizer of Osh from the boys from Uzbekistan and a scrumptious plate of Jagerschnitzel, complete with German potatoes, red kraut and spaetzle.

It is surprising that a restaurant with such a Norwegian name can come up with such a delicious German dish — but only during Ethnic Fest. All in all it was a beautiful day for a wonderful celebration.


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