We spent Sunday afternoon in Hofa Park this week, and witnessed another epic story of faith and resilience set in duple time.
Four days after devastating storms blew through the area, St. Stanislaus hosted its annual Polka Fest and, with the Maroszek Brothers Polka Band playing on a brand new dance floor, the tiny town never missed a beat.
Leaving their flooded fields and roofless houses for a few hours, the congregation gathered to celebrate mass, raise some funds, share a little booyah and dance.
The thing about America’s heartland, of course, is that its people lead with their strong, open hearts. Ask them to participate in a community fundraiser, and they’re going to show up. They’ll come bearing homemade pies with the flakiest crust you’ve every tasted. They’ll scoop chicken booyah with a giant ladle into gallon-sized ice cream buckets they’ve been saving all year. They’ll grill burgers and brats with precision and good cheer.
And they’ll pray in gratitude, in gratitude!, under a wind-whipped tent they raised for the occasion, that no one was killed when the tornado swept through, ripping holes in their barns and killing their livestock.
Father’s Day in Hofa Park has become a tradition for us and this year, more than any other, we felt privileged to be there. As we drove away, we noticed freshly boarded windows, an overturned camper, dented silos and pock-marked barns among the neighboring farms, all evidence of June 14, the day 10 tornadoes hit central Wisconsin in various places.
The coming days will bring struggles, hard work and fervent prayers for sunshine and an extended dry spell. For a few hours on Sunday, though, the community came together and I have to believe founders Valentine Peplinski, Valentine Zygmanski and brothers Frank and Michael Lepak would have been proud of the town they built 140 years ago.