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Heritage Days chair stepping down

Ruth Dinger

St. Paul Park's 2009 Heritage Days celebration, "25 Years on Broadway," will be Ruth Dinger's last as event chair.

Dinger is stepping down to take care of her four young grandchildren, and no one has been found to take her place.

A longtime St. Paul Park resident, Dinger has been a member of the city's Heritage Days committee for more than 20 years. For the past five years, she has chaired the event with Jim Domeier.

Domeier said he hasn't decided whether or not he will withdraw from the Heritage Days committee. He has made plans to retire before, and then changed his mind. However, he will remain chair of the Heritage Days Royalty program, which is a separate, nonprofit organization.

"We've been searching for a replacement for me since last fall," Dinger said. "I don't know who to ask. These days everyone seems to have too many activities."

She said she had no idea what would happen if a successor is not found.

St. Paul Park mayor John Hunziker also has been putting out feelers for a new chair. "No results so far," he said last week.

"It would hurt the city if Heritage Days was allowed to disappear. It's become an institution," Hunziker said.

Dinger agrees. "It would be a loss to the city," she said. "Lots of money comes into the city and many people plan family and class reunions in conjunction with Heritage Days."

While planning for the event begins immediately after the close of the festival in August, the bulk of the work is done during the summer, Dinger said. "And that's when most people are on vacation and doing things with their families; they don't have time for Heritage Days."

The chairman's job ranges from checking for mail at city hall to creating a budget, sending out letters requesting donations, signing and keeping track of contracts for the carnival, musicians, food vendors and more, Dinger said.

"Timing is important, too," she explained. "Every letter generally has to be followed up with a telephone call or personal visit."

Dinger has help from a committee of about 10 people who are responsible for other Heritage Days events including the parade, children's games, the mustache contest and egg toss, the arts and crafts tent and the flea market.

The two- to three-day mud volleyball contest, as well as the street dance, are Domeier's responsibilities. He, along with other volunteers, organizes and advertises the kick-off dinner and a moonlight-bowling event that help support the royalty program.

"It's a serious time commitment," Domeier said of his work with the royalty organization and the festival committee. "Some weeks I spend as much as 20 hours on either one.

"But I do it because it's always been fun," he said. During the year, he may work with St. Paul Park royalty at more than 100 parades, coronations and fundraisers in the metro area and outstate.

Despite the multitude of details she deals with, Dinger said she also has had fun working with Heritage Days, especially the year Domeier had trouble getting out of a Santa costume on stage at the royalty coronation.

And the most enjoyable event for Dinger is the Sunday afternoon egg toss she enters with fellow committee member Gretchen Domeier. "We won second place two years ago and this year our goal is first place," she said. "If I didn't have to work it, I'd really enjoy Heritage Days."