Berne Pizza unveils new outdoor stage
As a youngster David Derby remembers throwing around Swiss flags on the grounds of Zwingli Church by Berne during the annual Swissfest. He’s never lost his love for the church, which is one of the reasons he didn’t hesitate to help out when a new stage was needed.
The Rochester area builder donated the construction material and design time for a new outdoor stage unveiled for the first time at the kick off of Berne Pizza’s summer season June 6.
“It has been an honor for us to give back to the church what it has given to me,” said Derby, who grew up just a few miles from the church in Dodge County. “I can’t ever give back close to what this place has given me.”
Derby said he has many great memories from his childhood at the church. “We were here all the time,” he said. “It was more like a playground than a church.”
During a ribbon cutting ceremony last week, the church recognized many community sponsors who made the project happen. They included: Mahn Family Funeral and Cremation Services, Home Federal, the Twite family, J&S Custom Siding, Grande Cheese Company, Hodgman Drainage, R&M Steel, Ellingson Companies, Czaplewski Funeral Home, Citizens State Bank of Hayfield, Jade Lutzi Painting, Farmers State Bank of West Concord, McNelius Steel, Thrivent Financial and Derby Builders.
As Angela Organ, coordinator of Berne Pizza, cut the ribbon, she said, “May it bring music, fellowship and fundraising to people all across southeastern Minnesota for decades to come.”
Without the community sponsors, Organ said the stage would not have been possible. “We were overwhelmed with the messages of good will,” she said, adding more than $22,000 was raised for the stage.
The new stage replaced an older stage that was at least 50 years old, according to Organ. “It served a great purpose, but it needed to be repaired because the undercarriage had to be replaced,” she noted.
Derby tried to keep the Swiss features represented on the new stage because of “the strong roots of Swiss heritage in the community.” He said he wanted a large cross to be the most predominant feature on the stage. He also utilized limestone boulders and steps to represent the Swiss mountains.
“It’s unique,” Derby said. “It’s us. This is Berne. This is what was meant to be,” he said, adding he’s not aware of any other like it in the state.
Added Organ, “We’re playing homage to our Swiss background (with the stage).”
Organ loves the new stage, which has a Swiss chalet build into it. “I love the visual appeal,” she said. “The background is stunning.”
The church is hoping to utilize the stage for more than just pizza events, which run weekly throughout the summer months. Organ said the church would like to utilize the stage for outdoor weddings as well as other activities in the future. She wouldn’t mind having a group wanting to host outdoor plays, and encouraged anyone interested to call the church.
“It will have a lot of life here and a great opportunity to bring people together in a lot of ways,” Organ said. “We’ll find new ways to bring people together,” she added.
Organ credits congregation members for being so ambitious. “We’re not only passionate about giving to non-profits, but also providing unique and fun opportunities to gather in a family environment,” she said.
Berne Pizza will be offering pizza and concerts every Wednesday (except Tuesday, July 3) through August.