Wisconsin barn party more than just polkas

HELENVILLE, Wis.--The Geiger family of Helenville, about 40 miles west of Milwaukee, threw a party for the brethren Nov. 4. The annual festivity--a "barn party"--began with Sabbath services and lasted until Saturday night. Technically, it lasted until Sunday morning's "pancake feed," as Mr. Geiger called it.

For six years--first as members of the United Church of God, now as members of the Church of God Berean Fellowship, Hal Geiger and family have sponsored a get-together each fall in their 35-by-33-foot barn, built for dairy purposes in 1887.

"The main focus for the party," Mr. Geiger said, "is on building bridges."

This year at least 150 people showed up from six states: Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Michigan and, not surprisingly, Wisconsin.

Sabbath services included two messages, by Tony Stith of Zimmerman, Minn., and another by Mr. Geiger.

"After services we had the potluck. Then, typical of barn parties, we had a hayride and bonfire, then the dance itself. Some of the music was live and some recorded. We had a maze out in the field for the kids to find treasure in."

The music was more than just polkas, Mr. Geiger said. "Actually, we had quite a variety, going from your country to country rock, folk and that type of thing. It's a lot of fun to dance and so forth."

Did this year's party, huge bonfire and all, help build bridges?

"Well, of course, the people who came had already built the bridges," Mr. Geiger admitted. "They wouldn't have come had they not been disposed that way. But we are encouraging people to go out and remove the dynamite that's blowing up the bridges and put out the fires and to build the bridges stronger."

Plans are for a similar activity next spring. "This was the barn party," said Mr. Geiger. "We're going to call the one in the spring the barn mitzvah."

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