WEST BEND - On most days, you wouldn't find a clown throwing pies, a giant sand pile full of buried treasure, or a mail carrier dressed up like the Rev. Paul Dobberstein around the Grotto of the Redemption. But for Saturday's celebration of the Grotto's 100th anniversary celebration, there were events for all ages.
After kicking off with a retreat and a free concert Friday, things got into full swing on Saturday with a parade, inflatable games for the kids, and vendors selling food and art.
The Grotto of the Redemption is comprised of nine separate grottos depicting scenes from the Biblical story of redemption. Dobberstein worked on it for nearly 50 years, and the Rev. Louis Greving completed the work after Dobberstein's death.
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Dave Waldschmidt, who portrayed Paul Dobberstein for the 100th anniversary celebration, poses next to a larger-than-life statue of the builder of the Grotto of the Redemption at West Bend.
The day was a chance to celebrate Dobberstein's accomplishment and legacy, said Dave Waldschmidt, of Cylinder.
Waldschmidt portrayed Dobberstein on Saturday. He was dressed simply in all black, with a priest's collar and baseball cap.
"I had wanted to portray him in his working clothes, but he often wore a black vest and a collar, with his white shirt underneath," said Waldshmidt. "Whenever you see pictures of him, he's always wearing a collar."
Waldschmidt served as master of ceremonies for the parade, and manned a station next to the statue of St. Michael during the grotto tours, "so that people can meet Father Dobberstein," he said.
"It really is a wonder what he did. To think that every stone was put in place one by one. Up until 1947 I believe, everything was done by hand," Waldshmidt said.
Waldschmidt has seen changes to the structure over its many years of construction.
"When I was a kid, the pillars and the statue were out in the open," he said, pointing to the statue of Jesus which now stands beneath an enclosed arch at the pinnacle of the Grotto of Mary.
"Father Dobberstein died in 1954. Before he died he told Father Greving, he wanted to put an arch over those pillars, but he said, 'I think I'm running out of time.'"
Members of Dobberstein's family were in West Bend to celebrate the weekend, including grand-nieces Kathleen Berning Fleming, Des Moines; Darlene Berning Davidson, of Prior Lake, Minn.; and Rita Berning Wolf, Ottumwa.
The women remembered Dobberstein, and said they had attended his funeral. They recalled his love for animals and skill as a storyteller, as well as his dedication to God and to his work.
"Even when we came to visit, he would always go to the workshop and still continue working while he was visiting," said Wolf. "He was that dedicated. And he'd always send you home with a rock."
"When he had Sunday Mass, it would be nothing for him to go on for two hours," Fleming said. "He was very long-winded preacher. Then in the afternoons, he'd stand on the ledge of one of those Grottos and preach another sermon to anyone who would listen."
The women also had seen many stages of the Grotto.
"It's amazing it's lasted so long," Wolf said, "and the foundation it must have been built on to last for a hundred years."
"Kathleen's husband was saying the cement he uses doesn't last that long," said Davidson.
"(Dobberstein) used his own recipe," Fleming said.
After the parade was finished, the inflatables and kids games opened on the north end of the grounds.
Alicia Fehr said her kids were looking forward to the clown show and the dirt pile most, as she watched three of them on the playground.
"My husband is a mason, but this is not what I think of when I think of masonry. It's amazing that pretty much one person did all that labor," she said.
In the church basement and on the front lawn, art vendors sold pottery, photography, paintings and mosaics.
One of them, Roger Hargens, of Spirit Lake, said his first impression of the Grotto when he first saw it around 50 years ago was "fabulous," and he still feels the same way today.
"It all seems to be improving all the time. It should; that way it grows," he said.
Karen Ruddy, who had a wide variety of art forms for sale, had high praise for Dobberstein's dedication.
"Father Dobberstein inspired me years and years ago to work in mosaics," she said.
Even when painting, she said, she often creates something very like a mosaic, because she loves manipulating the small pieces and combinations of a mosaic.
"Every shrine that you go in and look at those ceilings, and look at the work Father did - it's just so amazing how he could ever do it. I know the love is there. You look at his work and you know how much he loves the material. You couldn't create things that beautiful without loving the material," Ruddy said.
Festivities conclude today with a Mass with Bishop Walker Nickless at 10 a.m. The children's art contest with be judged at 11 a.m., with winners announced at 1 p.m. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by the West Bend Knights of Columbus. The weekend comes to a close with the Grotto Songfest from 1 to 5 p.m., featuring Heart Song and Higher Power.