Pioneer Days a Success

   Pioneer Days, the Signature Festival of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), was successful in a number of respects. Attendance at this four-day event was up for the fourth consecutive year. Just less than 6900 guests chose to participate in the festivities. Clearly the perfect weather contributed significantly to this strong attendance.

   Pioneer demonstrations contributed to success insofar as they were new to many guests. This year we were pleased that Friesen Drillers again demonstrated well drilling as it was done 100 years ago. It was a popular demonstration last year, and again this year. One of the current year’s new demonstrations was a recently restored player piano. Dozens of people gathered round each time to hear great music produced by the pianist using his legs more than his hands.

   We believe the strong presence of families with young children in the audience is an indicator of success. It’s gratifying to see all these children learning to appreciate the museum. We hope some will be inspired to get involved in museum work in the future.

   The community contributed in various ways. The Steinbach Chamber of Commerce again provided support by way of planning the Pioneer Days Parade. 35 local organizations provided sponsorship for this and other summer events. Special interest clubs like the MHV Auxiliary, The Steinbach and Area Garden Club, the Southeast Draft Horse Association and Steam Club ’71 all supported our work.

   Last, but certainly not least, hundreds of volunteers served one or more shifts at jobs varying from supervising parking to flipping burgers. All of these contributors added to the success of the day.

   Our dependence on volunteers also reminds us regularly that this dependence is also vulnerability. This year the steamer was not in use because the local steam club didn’t have enough certified operators available to run it safely. We wonder how long we will be able to offer demonstrations with a steam engine when only a small number of people still know how to operate a steamer and no new people are learning. Will we be able to offer a threshing demonstration ten years from now if we can’t find people interested in learning how to operate a thresher? Skills such as threshing, log sawing, spinning and quilting are not required in today’s economy.

The Waldheim House

   For several years it has been obvious to us that our oldest heritage house, The Waldheim House, has been in need of significant repairs. The log walls need new chinking, the interior walls need to be re-plastered and the roof needs a new layer of thatch. But these are very specialized repairs because they are not generally required today and as a result, there are very few people who have the skill to do them. Hence they are also quite costly.

   Recently we have secured funding of $100,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada. This, along with additional funding from some local and other government partners, should make the repairs feasible over the next several years.

   This project should generate broad interest in that the house comes from the former village of Waldheim, just south of Morden, Manitoba, and other heritage organizations will have the opportunity to view the specialized work that will be done here.

Calendar of Events

August 10-14 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

September 7 – Fall on the Farm (10:00-5:00)

September 9 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament

September 20 – Supper From the Field

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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