Johnson Park celebration a success

NEW ULM – This past Saturday, Herb Schaper and Bob Skillings, co-chairmen of the 75th Anniversary of Johnson Park Celebration, were scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Brewers and Kaiserhoff game at noon.

However, Mother Nature foiled that with rain that postponed the game because of wet grounds.

But Saturday night at the banquet celebrating that event at Turner Hall, Schaper and Skillings did better than a first pitch.

They hit a grand slam, walk-off home run.

Those at the banquet saw a celebration that had all 275 people attending leaving in appreciation of what these two put together.

The 2 1/2 hour program, with Jim Bartels of KNUJ doing a great job as emcee, flew by with videos put together by Deb Steinbach of Memory Lane that were nothing else but awesome.

While the program lasted 90 minutes, it took more than a year of hard work and dedication from Schaper and Skillings and their committee of Ron Reinhart. Vern Kitzberger Tom Schmitz, Jim Hoffmann, Gordy Palmer, John Vetter, Jim Senske, Jim Bartels along with advisors Red Wyczawski, Jim Aufderheide and Elroy Ubl.

Also the Flying Buttress Film Company capped off a great evening with a video on Johnson Park.

Schaper said that he got deep into the project in the fall of 2013. It was a project that Schaper said got bigger than he thought it would be.

“When we got started, we had talked about bringing in an outside speaker and talking about making 8×10 pictures of everybody to put on a wall,” recalled Schaper. “But then we discussed using projectors because I had saw an a similar thing done in another venue. I thought that would be a good way for people to get a look at what was going on.”

Skillings said that initially this was going to be a week long event but Vetter came up with the idea of honoring all 16 state champions from New Ulm and having a one-day event.

If they thought that having this one day event was going to be easy compared to a summer-long event, Schaper said they were mistaken.

“The more we got into the 75 years of Johnson Park, the more overwhelming it became,” he said. “There was a lot of information to go through with all of the state championship teams. You are dealing with 500 total people on these teams and we needed individual pictures of each one. But I think that we raised the bar with this in preserving and sharing our history.”

He said that some of the information for the banquet was still coming in at 3 p.m. the day of the banquet.

Schaper said that bringing in Deb Steinbach to help with the DVDs came just before he felt that this event was not going to happen. “She came on board and started doing them and we got going.”

“We had a lot of people to get ahold of for this with all of the state champions plus the New Ulm Baseball Hall of Fame inductees,” said Skillings “There were several sleepless nights worrying about whether we could pull this off. But once all of the events happened at the banquet, the feedback that I got was nothing but positive. Deb (Steinbach) deserves a lot of credit for adding the power to the DVDs that Herb had put the context to. She sure put the cover on it.”

Skillings also wanted to thank Colleen Skillings, Deb Bastian and Katie Senske for their help with the registration and the DJs of Brent and Bryce Krohn of Nicollet (BKDJ).

“And Jim Bartels tied everything together professionally. He is the ultimate pro,” said Skillings.

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