Resentment is bubbling over congressional approval of $500,000 to restore the Strasburg, N.D., birthplace of Lawrence Welk, the king of champagne music.
The project's leader defended the plan to renovate the sod farmhouse where Welk was born and develop a German-Russian history museum and other tourist attractions."People are saying we're taking money away from farmers. It's not so," said Rosemary Schaefbauer, president of Welk Heritage Inc. "This money was allocated for rural development. North Dakota is going to benefit a whole lot from it."
The grant piqued the interest of radio talk-show hosts nationwide and raised the ire of Rep. Silvio Conte, R-Mass., who said it's an example of the kind of projects the country cannot afford.
"What will they do for an encore? Earmark funds to renovate Guy Lombardo's speedboat? Or restore Artie Shaw's wedding tuxedo?" he asked.
Welk, 87, does not grant interviews, but one of his daughters, Shirley Fredricks, said from Los Angeles that the grant caught the family by surprise. "We were astonished and I must say embarrassed," she said.