The music stops at the Withrow Ballroom

For nearly 90 years, the Withrow Ballroom in Withrow, Minn., has kept the music going but that all comes to an end after the Rockin’ Hollywoods play their last notes on Saturday. The place is going up for sale, the Stillwater Gazette reports.

It’s believed to be the oldest ballroom in the state, tracing its ancestry to 1928, when Ben and Anna Zahler built the place. They sold it to their son and for several decades it served as a popular polka venue as one Zahler generation sold it to the next.

Rock took over in the ’60s as the German immigrant farmers began to be outnumbered.

“When we first bought the place, it was just a white, rectangular box in the middle of a corn field,” Pete Babcock, who bought the ballroom in 1986 and sold it a dozen years later, tells the paper. “Do you know that at the time Washington County had more horses per capita than anywhere in the country? So we decided to add the gazebo and fix the place up to look like a Kentucky horse farm.”

Babcock said during his time owning the place more than 1,000 weddings were held at the venue.

“It makes you think about the tens of thousands of people came to the Withrow ballroom on a Friday or Saturday night,” Babcock said. “The number of people whose grandparents met at a polka dance or the hundreds of people who got married there.”

Babcock said he doesn’t want to think about what will happen if the Withrow Ballroom comes down to make way for some kind of new development.

“My heart and soul went into it, and to see it go is breaking my heart,” Babcock said. “Besides my kids, the Withrow Ballroom is my legacy and some of the best years of my life.”

The ballroom went into foreclosure in 2009 when a Stillwater nursery owner rescued it.

Steve Ghizoni, frontman of the Rockin’ Hollywoods, who practically called the place home, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the ballroom torn down.

The property will be auctioned off on November 11.

  • Erik Petersen

    It’s a bummer. They aren’t making more country ballrooms. Had my wedding reception there in 2000.