Pioneer Days 2013 was, in so many ways, a great success. The weather was almost perfect and the attendance seemed to reflect that. Almost 6500 guests participated in our annual signature event this year. That is a significantly higher number than we’ve seen in the last five years.
Typically one of the most popular attractions is the children’s activities. The petting zoo, the rides, the inflatable play structures and the children’s tent were enjoyed by both children and parents. Children’s entertainers Mr. Ken and Alan Fehr have both appeared at Mennonite Heritage Village events in the past and again drew significant crowds to their shows. By engaging children at a young age we hope to develop a sense of ownership of this museum and its mission that will stay with them for life.
Village tours were also popular with our guests. Jessica McKague hosted tours each day of the festival. These tours helped our guests go deeper into the history and the culture of the Mennonites. There are many things to be learned about buildings and other artifacts which are not necessarily evident during a self-guided tour.
It seemed that the musical entertainment in the tent was even more popular this year than it has been in past years. Audiences were genuinely appreciative of the music each day. While much of the music doesn’t necessarily address the history of the Russian Mennonites, it does create a festive atmosphere in The Village. Curiously the “Saengerfest” and the tribute to Johnny Cash by the group Cold Hard Cash drew the largest audiences. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that many guests attended both concerts.
It is no surprise that food was again a very popular part of Pioneer Days. On Saturday and Monday the line-up for the Livery Barn Restaurant went all the way to the street during the lunch hour. At one point I saw one of our volunteers delivering additional food supplies to the Short Order Booth. We were thankful that some of the grocery stores were open on Monday. The MHV Auxiliary again sold many waffles with vanilla sauce and Rollkuchen with watermelon.
We are very grateful for the successes of the weekend. For the weather that made it appealing for people to attend; For the hundreds of volunteers who gave a part of their long weekend to help; For the groups and clubs like the MHV Auxiliary, St. John’s Ambulance, the SE Draft Horse Association, the Steinbach and Area Garden Club, the Southeast Implement Collectors and Steam Club ’71 for the specific contributions they make; For the community sponsors who provided support for the event; For the media who chose to cover the event as a news item; And last but not least, for the many people who chose to attend Pioneer Days this year.
One of the new elements in this year’s edition of Pioneer Days was the Family History Station. It provided individuals the opportunity to discuss family trees with genealogists who, with the help of the Grandma 7 database of Mennonite names, assisted interested guests in looking up their family history. Many participants were surprised by the amount of information available. We will plan to continue offering this service at future festival events.