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They're back! Milwaukee's Dancing Grannies perform again despite of tragedy

Dancing Grannies
Posted at 11:28 AM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 17:57:12-04

MILWAUKEE — For the first time since the tragedy in Waukesha, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies performed in this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The ladies refuse to be defined by a horrible event.

The incident killed three Grannies and the husband of one. Normally, the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies appear in 25-30 parades a year.

14-year-old Ali Wachter was marching with the Grannies and carrying the banner that fateful day. But she unfurls a spirit of strength, resolve and appreciation for all the support.

"There was a lot to process," Wachter says. "Just the simplicity of people sharing one or two words or a hug or something, it still meant a lot."

Marching with the Grannies is a way to spread joy, says the group's co-leader, Jean Knutson.

"It's fun, we like the cheering of the crowds and the smiles we put on their faces," she says.

"We're also all in our own way, determined and strong women between 50 and 80, and we've lived a lot of life and developed resiliency and strength," says co-leader Jan Kwiatkowski.

Kwiatkowski and Knutson did not witness the Waukesha terror. Kwiatkowski was on a leave of absence and Knutson's love of the Packers kept her away from Waukesha that day.

"I didn't go because I'm a big Packer fan and I like to go with my family and friends and watch the games," Knutson says. "So Aaron Rodgers, I know you signed a new contract, so give me a call!"

Knutson's daughter Erica Wichert gets emotional thinking about what could have happened to her Mom.

"What if there wasn't a Packer game going on that day?" she wonders, tears rolling down her face. "What if there was nothing else. She would have been there!"

When Knutson reads a card from a Bears fan and cousin in Illinois, she gets choked up.

"Dear Jeannie and family, so glad you are with us. I will never knock the Packers again. That game saved your life. We are sorry for those who lost their lives and your painful grief."

"There's really something important we're saying to the world in terms of resilience and healing," Kwiatkowski says. "This is a long process. It's not like everyone is feeling great and everything is wonderful. There's a lot of ups and downs and being sad. Being courageous, being fearful and doing something anyway."

Just like Wachter, the teen who marches with the group. She says, "I consider them like my adopted grandmas!"

So as the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies work through their pain and tears, they vow to keep dazzling crowds and keep their hearts open to sharing love.

"I ultimately believe that light triumphs over darkness and that good triumph over evil. Giving up let's darkness win," says Kwiatkowski.

Knutson adds, "We've got to keep going, I have to keep up with my grandchildren!"

And Kwiatkowski has advice for anyone going through a hard time:

"Just live life to your fullest potential. Have fun. And as the Grannies always say, keep on dancing!"

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