By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Irene “Tootie” Kubal danced with Santa Claus to “Jingle Bell Rock” in front of a room of her friends Friday at The Whitcomb.
It was there in which she got the full experience of the Whirlpool Holiday Band.
Old Saint Nick was at the downtown St. Joseph building performing alongside the 22-member band that was wrapping up its tour of the Twin Cities.
Ever the spry dancer, Kubal said this was her favorite performance by the appliance maker band.
“I love any kind of Christmas music,” Kubal said. “I think this was the best one by far. I liked my dance with the man in red.”
The band is comprised of Whirlpool Corp. employees and retirees who spend one day a year playing at various Whirlpool buildings from 7:45 a.m. through the later part of the afternoon. They traditionally end their day at The Whitcomb.
Songs played included “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the theme music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The man portraying Santa was Mario Palmisano. Palmisano, whose wife works at Whirlpool, has done Santa’s part for the band for the last three years.
“At the Whirlpool stops we had some pretty big ones today,” Palmisano said. “But we get the best reaction here (at The Whitcomb). Just seeing the smiles on their faces is worth the busy day.”
Dressed in red shirts and black pants, band members played music to a crowd of more than 50. Among the instruments were drums, bells, a keyboard, guitar, bass, flute, trumpet, trombone and violin.
Yuri Kolev, a master technician at Whirlpool, plays the violin. He began working at the Benton Harbor company in 2013.
He learned of the band when they played at his facility and approached them for a chance to play.
“They were surprised to learn I play the violin,” Kolev said. “I was professional musician in Europe. I worked in Italy several years as a musician, then I worked in Bulgaria. I played for a long time. I’m happy to join them and to play music to everybody.”
Among the last to leave for the day was Jeff Miller, who was tasked with loading his drum set. It is his second year with the band.
He’s been playing drums since he was in the fourth grade, but through the years Miller played in a variety of bands – including marching and church bands.
“They gave me the opportunity and I had to jump in,” Miller said. “I always enjoyed watching them when they came to my (Whirlpool) office. It’s fun to get into the holiday spirit. Every place we’ve played, there have been wonderful, appreciative audiences.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 10, 2016)