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Grotto turns 100

West Bend’s ‘miracle in stone’ will hold three-day celebration

June 10, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

WEST BEND - One hundred years ago, one priest survived pneumonia, which was usually fatal, and began building a monument to God in gratitude.

On June 22, 23 and 24, the Rev. Paul Dobberstein's "miracle in stone" - the Grotto of the Redemption, a composite of nine separate Grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ- will celebrate its 100th anniversary with art shows, concerts, parades, auctions and other events for all ages.

Grotto Director Darcie Kramer said one of the highlights of the weekend will be the Remedy Drive concert, which is 7 p.m. June 23. Kramer said Remedy Drive is a Christian rock band from Omaha that is becoming well known.

Article Photos

-Messenger file photo
The Grotto of the Redemption at West Bend is made of precious and semi-precious stones, minerals and petrified wood, gathered from all around the world by the Rev. Paul Dobberstein. On June 22, 23 and 24, a celebration of the monument’s 100th anniversary will be held.

Youth speaker Sean Dalton will be featured before the concert at 6 p.m.

"We're trying to focus those two events on the youth, getting youth groups to come from all around," Kramer said.

Admission to Dalton's talk will be free. Tickets for Remedy Drive are $10, and can be purchased by calling the Grotto at (800) 868-3641, or on the gift shop website,

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to the concert on the lawn.

The Rev. David Hemann will perform a free concert at 6:30 p.m. June 22 at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Hemann has been involved in music ministry for many years and has released seven CDs of worship music.

On June 23, breakfast and lunch will be served on the grounds. The day will begin with a slow procession to the Grotto, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the home of Kirk and Julie Wagner, 402 130th St.

"It will be approximately four miles, a nice slow walk onto the Grotto grounds," said Kramer. "A walk of prayer."

There will be kids games including inflatables, a sandpile for a "rocky" dig with hidden geodes, and a rock climbing wall.

A geologist from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will give presentations throughout the day on the stones and minerals used in the Grotto. There will also be a geode cracking at 4 p.m. Kids who find geodes in the sandpile can bring them and see what's inside.

Children under 12 can participate in the Kid's Art Contest. Entries must be submitted by 12:30 p.m. on June 23. Winners will be announced at 1 p.m. June 24.

Dobberstein spent 42 years working on the Grotto, and his successor, the Rev. Louis Greving spent nearly 50 years continuing the vision. Even today, there is more to be done.

"There are still a number of statues we don't have, that were in the original vision of Father Dobberstein," Kramer said.

One of these statues is a figure of St. James sleeping, to be placed in the Grotto of Gethsemane. The Grotto recently acquired this statue through a donation from visitors from California. The statue was hand-carved in Carrara, Italy.

It will be installed with a special blessing following Mass on June 24.

The celebration will close on June 24 with the Grotto's annual songfest, featuring the bands Heart Song and Higher Power.

For more information or the full schedule of events, visit or call (800) 868-3641.

Kramer said the Grotto is getting more reservations for the campground, but there are still spots left. She is expecting large crowds for the celebration, and anticipates that many people will want to revisit the Grotto.

"It's absolutely amazing to walk through," she said. "Even though I work here, I still see something different every time I walk around. While the rocks don't change through the years, you still are going to see something different each time you visit.

"Father Dobberstein built the Grotto to bring people closer to God. He really wanted to bring anybody and everybody - the Grotto is here for all people, all denominations, all walks of life. Anyone is able to come and get that peaceful feeling."



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