Songfest features polka, bluegrass

WEST BEND – Along with the rocks, visitors could find polka and good old-fashioned family bluegrass at the Grotto of the Redemption this Sunday.

The Grotto hosted its annual Songfest celebration, complete with face painting and other kids’ games, and tours of the Grotto itself, under some beautiful sunny weather.

“I think this is the best weather we’ve ever had for it,” said Grotto board member Mike Scott.

He estimated a little over 100 people were there as the first of two bands took the stage, and more continued to filter in throughout the afternoon.

The Benson Family Singers were back by popular demand. Hailing from Southern Minnesota, the family band sings gospel and bluegrass and features Peter and Rachelle Benson and three of their four sons.

Their youngest, three-year-old Paul Benson, is still practicing for his turn with the band.

“He’s doing more singing at home, but not on stage yet,” Rachelle Benson said.

She said her sons loved seeing the Grotto.

“Last year it was raining, so this year we’ll be able to enjoy it a little bit more.”

They were not disappointed.

“You heard them say ‘cool’ a lot,” she said.

The show also featured the Night Owls, a Minnesota polka duo, who treated the audience to loves songs, dances and selections from their Polka mass.

JoAnn Thilges and her husband, Glen Thilges, of West Bend, came out because they’re big fans of the genre.

“Very much so,” she said. “I guess that dates us.”

Dennis and Carol Hallberg, of Palmer, were big fans of the other band.

“Last year was our first time,” Dennis Hallberg said. “I have a friend in the barbershop group.”

They decided they should come again when they heard the Bensons would be back, he said.

“The music was the big draw today,” said Leonard Olson, of Pocahontas, who was there for his first Songfest.

He had come with Patty Mefford and her granddaughter, Kinsey Rutheford, 7.

Rutheford likes the music “sometimes,” she said.

“I like the games,” she said.

Olson told her to try the lollipop tree again, instead of the wheel, since she had a better chance of winning.

“We’re trying to teach her statistics,” he said jokingly.

The Songfest is “just another event we host to bring families and friends together,” Scott said. “To get out, enjoy the Grotto, take the tours – It’s a chance to bring people to West Bend.”