TEUTOPOLIS— A beloved community event hall was at the center of the annual Teutopolis Knights of Columbus Parade and Picnic Sunday, with the theme "Rising Above and Moving Forward" as a pertinent reminder of the push to bring back the Teutopolis Banquet Hall.

The Teutopolis Knights of Columbus' biggest fundraiser of the year took on a new meaning after the banquet hall was devastated by a fire on March 23 following a major renovation of the facility. Not having the hall, which served as a venue for the annual picnic, didn't stop people from coming out and enjoying the festivities outside the facility.

Picnic Chairman Cory Goeckner said the picnic pre-show on Saturday and the parade and picnic event on Sunday had the biggest turnout he's seen in his seven years at the helm.

"Last night...it gave me chills just seeing all the people show up," Goeckner said Sunday afternoon. "It's just a great community to have come out here and support this."

While Goeckner said he could not provide an update on the progress of the banquet hall, he said the Knights of Columbus are still working with their insurance company and would like to see a new building built at the hall's current location at 210 Pearl St.

A "pre-picnic bash" on Saturday featured bands Thunder Road, Mustang Sally and Old Crows Young Cardinals, as well as inflatables for children to kick off the picnic. A parade utilizing this year's theme began Sunday's festivities.

Aaron and Lauren Pals and their three children, Raegan, Jordyn and Colton, found the perfect spot to watch the parade in the bed of their truck in front of Fuesting's Garage. Lauren Pals said while attending the parade and the picnic are a tradition for her family, this year had a special meaning.

"We want to see (the hall) rebuilt. It's very family oriented and a great place for families to go," Lauren Pals said. "It came as a big shock when we heard about the fire. It's been around since Aaron and I were kids."

Young Raegan had something sweeter in mind for her reason to attend the parade. She said she liked getting candy from passing floats and parade walkers.

This year's parade marshals also played a significant role in Teutopolis and surrounding communities. Thirteen military veterans who recently returned from an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., led the parade, including Bob Heuerman, Paul Breer, Jerry Thoele, Jim Niemerg, Larry Flach, Ed Hardiek, Don Westendorf, Don Sandschafer, Jerry Walk, Bob Walk, Don Will, Clem Kaufman and Harry Meyer.

Sister Sandra Sudkamp of Teutopolis said those men were one of the main reasons she attended the parade and picnic with friends Marilyn More of Sigel and Jan Vansaghi of Effingham. Sudkamp said many of the veterans were her classmates at Teutopolis High School with the class of 1965.

The three women agreed supporting the Teutopolis Knights of Columbus, the banquet hall and the community made the trip to the picnic grounds worthwhile.

"It's a great place. We've had many a wedding reception there," Sudkamp added. "I think it will continue to grow. "

Vansaghi said though she is not a Teutopolis resident, she has fond memories of the banquet hall. Most recently, she and her late husband had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the banquet hall.

Sudkamp said she is looking forward to the day the Teutopolis staple is rebuilt.

"We need it. It's very much a need. It's used well," Sudkamp said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.