A little Ho-Down History

The first step in getting ready for each week’s newspaper is to gather a list of stories we are working on and events that we need to cover. We start that list several weeks prior, add to the list as the weeks go on and then, right after one newspaper goes to press, we finalize the list and prioritize the stories.

On Thursdays we have a meeting to discuss the previous week’s newspaper - what looked good, what needed to be improved on, and then to prioritize the stories for the coming week. Sometimes the finished product looks a lot like what we planned at that Thursday meeting. Other times, events intervene and we have to make some changes to the plan as we go along.

One item on the agenda for this week’s paper was coverage of the Veseli Ho-Down. I volunteered to make the eight-mile trek and visit the grounds of Most Holy Trinity Church for their annual festival.

One of the questions that came up during last week’s meeting was “How did they come up with a name like that for a church festival?” I remembered that it has something to do with the music - this festival features four stages and a number of different musical groups during the course of the day, but I wasn’t sure how they came up with that name.

I did, however, know who to ask. That afternoon I stopped by Joe’s Shoe Repair and talked to Colette Trenda. In addition to working at the family shop, Colette has been church secretary at Most Holy Trinity for many years. I was hoping she could tell me.

“Oh, that was Mahlon Fierst’s idea,” Colette said. Mahlon owned a bar in Veseli and was helping to line up bands and plan one of the early versions of Veseli’s festival in the early 1970s. “He looked at the list of all the bands and said ‘We’ve got so much music here, we should call this a Ho-Down.’”

A Ho-Down, or Hoedown, according to various sources, is a musical party, with roots in the Appalachian Mountains and the south. That name seems to fit the bill for the annual celebration.

Dennis Palma, one of the organizers of this year’s Ho-Down, confirmed Colette’s account. He recalled the early days of the festival. “They’d have 10 stages lined up along the road in front of the church, with all of these bands playing, and people enjoying the music and drinking beer,” he said. “I was told the record was about 90 kegs one year.”

The Ho-Down has gotten smaller over the years - and a bit more manageable. There was still plenty of music, plenty of people, and plenty of beer at this year’s festival, which helps bring money into the church coffers at Most Holy Trinity to finance its operations.