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The farm where Lawrence Welk learned to play the accordion became center stage Tuesday for a project to create a museum honoring the king of champagne music.

Welk, now 87 and living in Los Angeles, was unable to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at the farm where he lived until he was 21, but he sent a letter of thanks.

The farm has been vacant since 1966. But folks in this town of 600 -- about 75 miles south of Bismarck -- decided to refurbish the farm to chronicle Welk's achievements and the history of his German-Russian ancestors.

The cost of the project is estimated at $750,000, including $500,000 for a trust to maintain the museum after it opens. Welk Heritage Inc., which is coordinating the restoration, has raised $150,000, including $80,000 from Welk's foundation in California. It hopes to collect the rest from grants and donations.

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