Peter Wendinger gets a surprise party

KLOSSNER – Hundreds of family and friends, including musicians from across the Upper Midwest, packed the Klossner House Friday to help Peter Wendinger celebrate a half century of music.

“I remember my brother Paul and I in grade school learning how to play accordion from Jeannette Weber, a retired country school teacher in her seventies, at her music studio near Fernando,” Peter Wendinger said. “She taught us how to play an accordion while she played an piano-accordion. Paul and I played at her 90th birthday in Granite Falls. It was great fun.”

The Wendinger’s passion for music began when Peter and Paul’s father Herb went to New Ulm for Polka Days in 1961.

“(New Ulm concertina maker) Christy Hengel held a concertina jamboree. There were many young kids from the Lonsdale, New Prague and Montgomery area who played concertinas,” Wendinger said. “Dad decided his boys could do it too. We began lessons from a number of people including Johnny Helget from New Ulm.”

The Wendinger Brothers first gig was a wedding reception for George and Marion Altmann. Their payment was a pair of black socks. Their first paycheck was $5 for playing at John Deere Day in Gibbon.

The New Ulm American Legion Club hired the Wendinger Brothers every other Friday for about five years until it was decided they were too young to perform in bars. Other ballrooms began calling them for weekend gigs, sometimes out of state.

In 1976, they broadened their horizons, creating Wendinger Band & Travel, Inc. Gigs included a polka festival in Honolulu. The Wendingers went to China five times, Australia twice, toured Europe every year since 1980 and recently returned from Ireland, where Wendinger got very close to the Pope.

“Music, traveling, farming and family are a very important part of my life,” Wendinger said. He continues to work in the family farm near St. George that produces 400 acres of corn each year.

The Wendinger Band performed for an entire month at for the Mall of America grand opening at Camp Snoopy.

“The highlight of my career was in 1992 when we had 180 engagements,” Peter said.

Band recognition includes the Minnesota Ballroom Operators Old Tyme Band of the Year, Polka Hall of Fame, World Concertina Congress and Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inductions.

“Thanks to the Internet, my weekend Sunday radio show at 12:30 p.m. on KNUJ 860 AM and keeps me in touch with people all over the world,” Wendinger said.

The Wendinger Band which features Mike Simon, Steve Moran, Jon Wendinger, Peter Wendinger and Larry Roepke, performed at the Klossner House Friday.

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Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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