Spillville’s David Ludwig stands in front of the new permanent stage in Riverside Park, near the Inwood Ballroom. Ludwig’s donation of $10,000 helped bring the project to fruition. (Photo: Julie Berg-Raymond).
Spillville’s David Ludwig stands in front of the new permanent stage in Riverside Park, near the Inwood Ballroom. Ludwig’s donation of $10,000 helped bring the project to fruition. (Photo: Julie Berg-Raymond).

By the time the last band had played its closing song at the first annual Turkey River Music Festival in Spillville’s Riverside Park last summer, festival organizers already knew they wanted to build a permanent stage there – not only for future festivals, but for public events of all kinds.

The desire for a permanent stage in the park dates back to the 1970s, though – when the local Jaycees had the same idea.

One of those Jaycees was David Ludwig, of Spillville. “We always talked about having a permanent stage,” he recalls. “So it’s really good to see young people doing this with the park.”

When Ludwig first heard about the plans, he contacted the group behind the effort, one of whom was Spillville Mayor Mike Klimesh.

“[Dave] said he really wanted to be a part of it, because he’d always hoped a stage could be built there,” Klimesh says.

As it happened, Ludwig – who describes himself as a “semi-retired farmer” – had recently come into a little money, and says he “decided to give a little of it away.”
Thanks in part to Ludwig’s $10,000 donation, the project is nearing fruition. He will be among the first people to visit the new stage – which will be named after him – when the second annual Turkey River Music Festival opens Friday, Aug. 30.

“A lot of people leave things in their wills,” Ludwig says. “But I decided to do something while I’m still here … I decided it’s good to have your name on something other than a tombstone. I’m really grateful to them for naming the stage after me; they didn’t have to do that. I just wanted a little plaque.”

Klimesh says they were “very, very happy to work with him. He asked for a little plaque with his name on it … And I just said, ‘You know, Dave, with all the stuff you’ve done for this city, we’re getting big letters across that sucker.’ He just smiled.”

Ludwig’s involvement in Spillville’s civic life goes back to his post-college years. He joined the Jaycee organization in the 1970s. That organization ran the Fourth of July celebration in Riverside Park during the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s, when it was a three-day celebration. Along with Erv Ott, Ludwig also ran the softball league in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Sometime in the mid-1970s, he started bartending at the Inwood Ballroom – and continued doing so into the 1990s. With Cheryl Novak, he managed the ballroom from 2000 to 2005.   ...

For complete story and more photos, see Thursday's Decorah Journal.