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Are you ready to party?

Party in the Park is often attended by staff and residents at the nursing home, as well as the occasional politician, such as Rep. Paul Marquart (upper right). (Submitted photo)

Though it's not, technically, a "Party in the Park" anymore — the event has gone through a few location changes over the years — the annual fundraiser for Essentia Health St. Mary's Oak Crossing has been going strong for 26 years now.

This year's event is set for Friday, June 15 at the Holy Rosary Parish Center, located at 1043 Lake Ave. in Detroit Lakes, with serving from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The event will feature live music, door prizes and — of course — food, including their "famous" barbecue sandwiches, made with Family Council member Duane Henrikson's secret family recipe. There will also be desserts, ice cream, chips, pickles and beverages, at a cost of $8 per plate (with an extra $1 for adding a second sandwich).

"If you buy a ticket for the luncheon, you are also entered into our prize drawings," says Family Council member Ginger Flynn, who is also part of the event's planning committee.

"But if you have to leave early, you don't need to be present to win," added Jeanne Teiken, another longtime member of the council.

Prizes include a handmade quilt (courtesy of quilter Janelle Erickson), a fishing rod and reel, quilted table runners and a baby basket, as well as an ice cream basket and another basket featuring "popcorn and a movie."

There will also be live entertainment, including music from both The Front Row and Off the Wall Band.

All proceeds from the luncheon will be used to improve the lives of Oak Crossing residents, according to Family Council member Bertha Anderson, who has been a part of the fundraiser since its inception.

Oswald said the council chooses a new "Oak Crossing Employee of the Month" at each of their monthly meetings, then they ask honorees what they feel is needed for the 'neighborhood' where they work.

"Every year we pick a new project, but the residents also have some input into what we choose to purchase," added Teiken.

"We've done quite a bit here over the years," Flynn said.

Past purchases from Party in the Park profits have included a laptop computer on wheels (with touchscreen and video conferencing technology to enable residents to communicate directly with relatives), a transportation van for residents, televisions for each of the nursing home's three resident neighborhoods, music players, an aquarium, towel warmers and, lastly, the addition of a chapel — the latter being by far the largest of the projects.

"Over the years we have completely furnished the chapel," Anderson said.

"Including some beautiful stained glass windows," Teiken added.

"We spent over $8,000 on the chapel," Anderson said. "It was completed in 2012."

"We've put in new sound systems for each of the neighborhoods at Oak Crossing, as well as the Loafer's Lounge," added Marlys Oswald, who has served on the council alongside her duties as Oak Crossing activities director for many years.

"Last year, we raised funds for a new piano for the Loafer's Lounge," said Teiken. "It's arriving this Friday (June 8)."

"It's beautiful," Flynn added. "And the sound is amazing."

"Tickets are available at the Oak Crossing front desk, the entrance to the Essentia Health St. Mary's Hospital cafeteria or directly from family council members," Anderson said. "The ticket includes everything--the picnic lunch, door prize drawings and live music."

She said that they typically serve about 300 people but despite the large numbers, they've never run out of food.

"And we have a bake sale too," Flynn said.

"This is our main fundraising event of the year," Teiken said, adding that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans also makes an annual contribution toward the fundraiser.

The remainder of the funding for Oak Crossing Family Council projects comes through donations and bequests.

Why is it called 'Party in the Park'?

It was a little over a quarter century ago that some volunteer members of the Family Council at St. Mary's Nursing Center in Detroit Lakes — now known as Oak Crossing — came up with the idea of hosting a picnic fundraiser to help raise funds for various projects in and around the senior living community.

Since then, the annual fundraiser has gone through a couple of location changes.

According to Anderson, it used to be outdoors.

"It used to be in the Rotary Park by St. Mary's," added Teiken. "That's how it got to be called Party in the Park."

"But the weather was really unpredictable," Anderson said, "so we moved it inside, to the Holy Rosary Church Parish Center. That has worked out really well for us."

Though the "park" part is no longer precisely accurate, the name stuck. Party in the Park has been a community tradition for more than a quarter century now.

The Family Council includes about 20 volunteer members, each of whom helps to make desserts and prepare and serve food for the event, though some of the food and beverages are also donated. Many of the volunteers have been a part of Party in the Park since its inception, Anderson said, but new volunteers are always welcome.

"Any family member of a resident at Oak Crossing or friend of the family is welcome to join our Family Council," she added. "We meet the first Thursday of each month--except in January--at noon inside the chapel."

Lunch is provided by the nursing home, Oswald said, and they usually have a scheduled speaker, who talks about issues of interest to the residents, such as health, well-being and current events within state legislature or at Essentia Health St. Mary's.

For more information, please contact Essentia Health Oak Crossing at 218-844-0789.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454