Immediately following Pioneer Days, our four-day Signature Festival, we do a lot of informal evaluation, as well as a formal evaluation of the event. In addition to our own observations we consider suggestions made by guests throughout the weekend.
One of the most striking successes was the visitor count. Approximately 6700 people chose to visit Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) during Pioneer Days this year. This is an increase from 6500 the year before. Until last year we were hoping to have 6000 guests. Now the bar has been raised and, in the next year or two, we would like to see our visitor count hit 7000.
As we spent time on the grounds we observed that, in keeping with previous years, many of our guests were young families. Our objective is to provide a lot of quality children’s entertainment in an effort to keep those children as friends of the museum long into their adult years.
The license plates in the parking lots and the conversations we had with visitors showed us that our guests came from many other communities, provinces and even countries. It was also gratifying to hear, again and again, that some of our visitors were first time guests. In one case we had a guest who is a local person and had not visited MHV for 20 years. This guest found a family connection with one of our more significant artifacts.
A recent addition to our offering on festival days is the Family History Centre. This facility provides interested people with research into their family tree. Amateur genealogists, aided by the very robust Grandma database of Mennonite names, assist individual guests with this research. This has become a popular offering.
This year we again brought in eight bands to provide musical entertainment in the tent. While the tent isn’t always full there are many people sitting at picnic tables in the general area enjoying food, music and a relaxed atmosphere. In addition to the music in the tent, the annual Saengerfest in the Auditorium was very well attended.
The Southeast Draft Horse Association and Steam Club ’71 again provided many interesting pioneer demonstrations. Probably the most popular horse-powered demonstration was the saw cutting firewood. The saw was powered by two horses in an “umgang” or merry-go-round which transfers the energy of the horses to the saw. The steam club used their Case Steamer to run the threshing machine, operate the sawmill and pull a six bottom platform plow.
The turn-of-the-century well drilling demonstration operated by Friesen Drillers provided guests with an experience many of them had never had before. A number of people commented that they had no idea that such technology was used for “drilling” a well.
While staff worked very hard to plan and deliver this festival, it is not likely it would have succeeded without the support of the community. 340 volunteers worked one or more shifts during the four days to fill about 500 slots. Seventeen corporate sponsors provided support to cover some of the expenses. Many people brought family and friends to experience the festival. It’s great to be able to provide this event in return for the many resource contributed by our constituency.
Fall on the Farm takes place on Labour Day Monday, September 1. Mark the day on your calendar and call 204-326-9661 to volunteer your services and get in on the action.