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Rugby Lions bring hamburger picnic, Too Old to Stand band to music lovers

By Sue Sitter - | Aug 7, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby Lion Galen Mack mans the grill as Rugby Lion Dale Niewoehner, center, and Lake Metigoshe Lion Larry Bullinger look on.

The smell of grilling burgers welcomed a large crowd to the Rugby Lions’ Annual Hamburger Picnic, held July 28 as part of the club’s Music in the Park series at Rugby’s Ellery Park.

The Rugby Lions have hosted musical acts in the park nearly every summer for the past 25 years. The program was canceled in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Parked cars lined streets for several blocks in the area. Classic cars sat on display on the park’s lawn, some with hoods up to show off their shiny engines.

A long line of hungry people formed behind a table where Lions member Sandy Mongeon sold meals of burgers, salads and drinks. At another table several feet away, other Lions members served free scoops of ice cream, a tradition attendees at Music in the Park look forward to.

“Holy smokes, this is the biggest crowd I’ve seen this summer,” Mongeon said as she took money for the burger plates. “We ran out of salad earlier, but we’ve got some more now.”

“It’s quite a night. We’ve attracted everyone from here to Bottineau County,” Mongeon added.

At the food prep area, Lion Paul Niemi said club members had cooked 576 pounds of burgers.

“We got plates and buns and everything else, but we ran out of salad,” Niemi said.

Niemi was impressed by the size of the crowd. “Look at all the people and the band hasn’t even started playing,” he said, pointing to the growing number of people unfolding chairs, spreading out blankets or claiming spots at picnic tables.

Lion Galen Mack stayed busy at the grill, flipping long rows of patties.

“I think people were ready to come out of their houses,” Mack said of the crowd.

Joining the gold-vested Rugby Lions for the event were the Lake Metigoshe Lions, who wore purple vests.

“I think there are 18 of us here,” said Larry Bullinger, a Lake Metigoshe Lion. “I love it. We come down and bring our convertibles down and have a great time.”

“We try to come every week. We have a Tuesday night out up at the lake, then Wednesday night, we come here and Thursdays we hike, then you’ve got the weekend,” Bullinger said of the Lake Metigoshe chapter.

At 7 p.m. picnicgoers enjoyed a concert by Bottineau band Too Old to Stand.

Music in the Park organizer Kathy Kirchofner, a longtime member of the Rugby Lions, introduced the band.

Kirchofner said the picnic, supported by a fundraiser in April “and sometimes a golf fundraiser,” also receives help from the Rugby Park Board. The 25th anniversary series also received help from Otter Tail Power Company, the Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Rugby Community Endowment Fund.

First International Bank, Bremer Bank and Merchants Bank also gave their support to bring musical act Tigirlily to the Ellery Park stage Aug. 11, according to Kirchofner.

Kirchofner gave special thanks to the Lake Metigoshe Lions, introducing Lake Metigoshe member Les Halvorson.

“The people you saw tonight in the purple vests are Lake Metigoshe Lions and once a year when ‘Too Old to Stand’ plays, we come down to help out the Rugby Lions and we’re happy to do that,” Halvorson said. “On the other hand, one of the big projects we have is the Metigoshe Melt,” he said of their winter fundraiser. “That’s when you buy a ticket and try to guess when a can will go through the ice up there.”

“The Rugby Lions each year are good enough to help us sell melt tickets, so in return, we’re more than happy to come down and help them with the meal tonight,” Halvorson said.

A bucket sat on a picnic table to collect cash donations for Music in the Park. The Lions also had a container available to collect used eyeglasses and hearing aids. The Lions Club International collects and refurbishes used glasses and hearing aids to give to individuals living in other countries who can’t afford them.

Kirchofner said Lions members could take donations of hearing aids and eyeglasses as well. “You can bring them to almost any bank,” Kirchofner said. “They’ll take them, for sure.”

“I don’t get it, but their name is Too Old to Stand. They don’t look very old to me,” Kirchofner quipped.

With classic cars in the background, Too Old to Stand lead singer Shane Parsons introduced his bandmates, who played classic tunes from the 1980s and before. Parsons and band members took brief breaks in between sets to interact with the audience. One pair of sisters in the audience told Parsons they’d driven to Rugby from Kansas to see the band. They wryly offered to sing onstage. “But you’re not in Kansas anymore,” Parsons joked.

After an hour, the show seemed to wind down, but fans encouraged the band to play on. They did, for another half hour.

When the show ended, Kirchofner joined the band onstage. “What a wonderful night. Thank you guys so much. I had so much fun,” she enthused.

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