VESTA - The Vesta community hall was packed. Local volunteers had finished cooking up a whole flock of chickens. But if anyone was doing V-Esta Day by the numbers, the most important one was zero.
Vesta Commercial Club members Karen Lemcke and Lawrence Paluck were on stage, holding up a copy of the mortgage for the property where the Community Cafe now stands. Paluck held a lighter.
"We're happy to say that it's finally paid off," Dorothy Marquardt told the crowd Wednesday. Club member Glen Schueller gave a running tally of mortgage payments, rising interest rates and community fund-raising events in the building's history.
Photo by Deb Gau
Karen Lemcke holds a copy of the Vesta Community Cafe’s mortgage over a pan as the paper catches fire. Vesta area residents burned the document Wednesday in celebration of the mortgage being paid off.
band: Members of the Lucan Community Band played a medley of songs representing the branches of the U.S. military during a concert Wednesday at V-Esta Day in Vesta.
blindfolded tractor: Sam Henriksen and Zach Rohlik test out the course for the backseat driver races at V-Esta Day. Rohlik rode in back of the riding mower, calling out directions for the blindfolded Henriksen.
"The last payment was made on July 13, 2009, so guess what the balance is?" he asked. "Zero."
"Get ready to call the fire department," Schueller joked as Paluck prepared to burn the mortgage in celebration.
Building and paying for the Vesta Community Cafe took the combined efforts of people in the community, local residents said. Proceeds from past V-Esta celebrations even went to help pay for the cafe building and mortgage, so it made sense to celebrate the final payment at this year's festival.
"The total cost came to about $110,000, and we paid it off in six years," Schueller said.
"It's great," said Elvera Mayer of Vesta. Mayer said the cafe is an important part of Vesta's social life, so it's good to have it paid for. "If we didn't have the cafe, the town would die."
Regulars like Mayer said they come to the cafe a few times a week.
For Gordon Alexander, seeing the mortgage-burning brought things full circle. Alexander was part of the original talks about forming a community cafe in 2002.
"We had no idea what was going to happen," he said. "It's really great" that the cafe's first financial goals have been meet.
Schueller said private and community contributions made up a good part of the funding for the cafe. Even donations from the "breakfast club" that met after the original cafe closed down were sizable.
"That was surprising, that we raised $1,500 in a year just with a little toast and coffee," he said. Now, community members said they hope business will continue to be strong with local and area support.
It just goes to show, Schueller said, what can happen "if people stick together."