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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Loyalty has been a big factor in sustaining and improving the Ste. Genevieve Holiday Christmas Festival.
Annette Rolfe, executive director, appreciates the musicians who keep returning, as well as the visitors who attend year after year, and those who work with her behind the scenes every year.
The musicians have a firm loyalty to the town and to the festival that Rolfe greatly cherishes.
“Gerry Huggins, the saxophonist, not only is he brilliant, but this guy had a show that morning in Bonne Terre,” she said. “As soon as he left our show, he was going down to another show in Jackson. He did three shows in one day. That is absolute loyalty. And he does a great job. His shows were filled. Both of them were. Like I said, I was very pleased with the turnout. It was amazing.
“So many people were coming here from St. Louis. I must have met at least 12 to 15 different families that had come down from St. Louis and so they planned to come back every year. My husband’s brother and sister-in-law came in from Manhattan, New York. The Udings came in from Wyoming. My husband and I met a couple on Friday night. He came all the way up from Tupelo, Miss., and my brother-in-law from New York met another couple came in all the way from Oregon just to come to this event –because they’d heard about it.
One of the long-time loyalists has been Dr. Isaac Laussel, director of jazz studies at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Not only has he come for years, he has brought numerous students.
This year, he had planned for his wife, an even more accomplished musician, Dr. Rosanna Cauti, to perform on the violin and viola. However, she became seriously ill late in the week.
Rolfe said Cauti was extremely upset about not being able to come, but suggested that her stipend be offered to the students in the SIU String Quartet, to fill in for her scheduled performances. (They did so, to rave reviews.) Rolfe noted that Laussel took her to a hospital, then immediately headed for Ste. Genevieve.
As Rolfe noted, many of the performers ask to come back.
“Somebody asked Matt Palisch, the organist, if he’s ever going to not come back,” Rolfe said. “He says, ‘I’ll be back as long as I’m not told not to.’ He said, ‘I’ve been here 10 years now, and so I plan to come back.’ Everyone seems to really love it so much, because it’s fun, and they get a large response from the audience. They always get standing ovations. How could you not like that? It’s lots and lots of fun.”
Rolfe also expressed appreciation to those who worked with her on the festival. For more than 15 years, she worked with Judy Gustofson, Sandra Cabot, Jack Donze, Teddy Roth, Al Keiser, Gary Scheel and others.
In recent years,Diane Miller, Sam Hughey and Regina Berkbuegler and stepped into big roles.
Rolfe also appreciates Bill and Patty Naeger, who have performed at the tree-lighting ceremony for many years, as well as the Ste. Genevieve High School Madrigal Choir and to Scheel for serving as MC at the tree-lighting ceremony.
“We’re always so lucky that they dress up in their historic costumes and sing all these historic songs in three different languages,” Rolfe said of the Naegers. “And the Madrigal Choir was exceptional this year. So thank you, Mrs. (Michelle) Jokerst, also, for always doing an exceptional job.”
The parade is also a big task.
“As far as the parade also, I have a whole team of people that, like, I’ll design the parade, which takes me almost 20 hours to do that.”
It takes many volunteers to get everything lined up and off the mark in a 100+ vehicle parade. Among those who helped was former mayor, Paul Hassler, and his wife Mary, who came back from their retirement home in Patterson, Mo., to help as in past years.
“He and his wife came up from the Bootheel just to line up the parade, and several other people,” Rolfe said. “They get there at 6.30 in the morning, and the parade doesn’t even start until 11. That’s how dedicated they are to make sure that it’s a successful event. Without them, that would be chaos. And they do a spectacular job.”
Rolfe also thanked the Milice de Ste. Genevieve for turning out in bigger numbers than ever.
She also appreciated the town itself, for supporting the festival and making the visitors feel welcome, including the merchants who had their shops decorated for Christmas.
“The town is very inviting, very charming,” she said.
All the support has made the festival “a world-class event,” Rolfe said.
“I just thank the community for everyone participating in our magnificent parade,” Rolfe said. “And I want to tell them that we are so lucky to have this wonderful community and to wish a Merry Christmas to them.”