Medina Ballroom

Written by Lon A. Gault in his 1988 book entitled Ballroom Echoes.

Northwest of the Twin Cities in Hamel, Minnesota, at 500 Highway 55, is the Medina Entertainment Center which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary on August 31, and September 14, 1986. The former night featured the “East Side Pharoahs” and on the latter evening the music was played by the band of Dick Macko. Both nights were free. The Raskob brothers and their wives still owned and operated it. Not surprising, the Raskobs came from a dancing family. All five boys and the daughter danced, thus copying the love for dancing shared by their parents. After the Medina’s opening the Raskob’s mother “sneaked” into at every opportunity for a night of dancing.

Today’s large two-story structure providing 60,000 square feet of floor space is a replacement of the first building of 30,000 square feet destroyed by an explosion and fire on June 17, 1974. In applying forty gallons of lacquer sealer on the bowling alleys, adequate ventilation was not provided. A spark ignited its vapors and caused an explosion that knocked out the sprinkler system. Within a few minutes the Medina was engulfed in flames. Most tragically, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Raskob’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kathy, and her friend, Laura Ellengren, lost their lives in this disaster.

After the fire the Raskob brothers carefully planned a new facility made of pre-cast concrete panels. In fourteen working days the outside shell was put into position; and the whole building was finished 105 days later, after its start on September 3, 1974. This million dollar building, which measures 190 feet by 160 feet, can handle 1,700 patrons compared to the 900 of the earlier building. Also close at hand is a large parking space and a sixty-six unit motor court added in April of 1984.

When the enlarged Medina’s grand opening took place on December 18, 1974, the band of Eddie Skeets furnished the music. Two weeks later Dick Macko’s band performed for the MEdina’s first New Year Eve’s party. It was followed soon afterward by the bands of Wally Pikal, Jules Herman, Al Pierson, and Whoopee John.

On the upper level of the Medina, the main doors of this entertainment center open into a large foyer where the walls have posters on them telling of coming events, and newspaper accounts of the Medina’s history. There is also a ticket window and a place to confirm  seating reservations.

A few more steps places a couple inside the ballroom itself next to the bandstand. If the band is playing, an entering couple will quickly view an air thrust maple floor about 100 feet long and 65 feet wide filled with happy dancers beneath the revolving ball. At about the same time, many couples find the music irresistible and will join the dancers.

Others will proceed on the red carpeting surrounding the floor to the table and chairs placed throughout the ballroom area. Once in their places they may notice the black railing separating the table area from the dance floor, the red and yellow lights illuminating the room, and the location of the bars.

On Saturdays it is usual to have one band in the main ballroom, one downstairs in the “back 40” and another one in the downstairs party room all playing to capacity crowds. The “Back 40,” with its decor of collectible Americana, however, attracts college students and the younger patrons interested in the country western, disco, and rock music played alternately.

This area is adjacent to the twelve bowling alleys, and game room. Also close by are the Victorian dining room, party facilities, and the off-location liquor stand.

The live music heard on Saturdays is regularly scheduled for Fridays and Sundays as well. Periodically on Wednesdays, big-name traveling bands like those of Al Pierson, Don Glasser, Wayne King, and Jan Garber have appeared.

Fortunately for persons unable to attend the Medina, the bands playing there have been heard on a one-hour radio program entitled “Music of Your LIfe.” One such program featured the Johnny Williams Big Band for a dance music marathon for the listeners of KSRI.This occasion occurred on August 29, 1980, when KSRI sponsored “Listener Appreciation Night” by handing out the 3,000 tickets to Medina patrons and broadcasting the WIlliams dance music for four hours.

The Raskobs not only provide excellent, diversified entertainment at the Medina, but they are involved with helping others and developing the potential of the Hamel area. In one instance the Raskobs staged a benefit performance at the Medina that raised over $1,000 for a young man crippled in an auto accident. For their participation in civic and community affairs, Cliff, Bob, and Joe were deservedly named Men of the Year by the Northwest Chamber of Commerce. In 1988, the two older Raskob brothers relinquished their part in the Medina Entertainment Center by turning management over to Bob and his wife, Jeri, and their family.

Area residents have come to know and enjoy the kind of entertainment the Raskobs provide at the Medina. So have others from many miles away. They would agree with the query, “Why not call 612-478-6661 for reservations and see for yourself what delights the Medina may offer you?”