A Community Meeting Place

During my years as a student at the Burwalde School, located between Winkler, Morden and Carman, the Burwalde School District was my primary community. While this had much to do with the fact that I spent every weekday in a classroom with all the other children living within a three mile radius of the school, there were other factors that contributed to the creation of this community.

   The school also served as a meeting place for the families of the school district. For years there was a Sunday School session at our school on Sunday mornings. Our mothers would gather there periodically for fellowship, food and service projects, as was common in many churches during that era. When our fathers dropped us off for classes, they would often pause to visit with each other on the schoolyard. This camaraderie extended to the farm yards and fields where they frequently helped each other with farm work. And from time to time, our teacher would plan a skating party or a family night at the school. The family night might include some Three Stooges films, skits by students, and music by parents. All of these activities built community.

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) plays a significant role in building community in Southeastern Manitoba. Our summer festival days attract 12,000 to 15,000 people to this place annually. On these days, young families come for a day of fun activities, such as barrel-train rides and a petting zoo, as well as a variety of yummy food options. Adults bring their lawn chairs and their bag of sunflower seeds and spend an afternoon enjoying our musical entertainment. Hundreds of volunteers of various ages donate one or more three-hour shifts as interpreters in our heritage buildings, short-order cooks, parking-lot attendants, cashiers and other helpers. It’s always gratifying to see our community come together like this to socialize and to serve.

   MHV is a gathering place on other days as well. From May through September, many people come to our Livery Barn Restaurant with colleagues, friends or family, particularly enjoying homemade soup and bread on Thursdays, brunch on Saturdays, or the lunch buffet on Sundays. Families enjoy various types of gatherings on our grounds, in the restaurant, or in one of our meeting rooms. Teachers bring students on field trips for hands-on history lessons and a healthy outdoor experience. Many people bring out-of-town friends and relatives to our museum to socialize, relax and enjoy a meal. Without question, MHV is a beautiful and versatile gathering place for thousands of people annually.

   On a more commercial level, our museum is also a meeting place for our business community. Many local organizations hold meetings, training sessions, picnics and parties in our meeting rooms and on the grounds. Businesses bring out-of-town clients to the Livery Barn Restaurant to introduce them to local culture and cuisine.

   MHV has become a popular wedding venue. Weddings are held on the grounds, in our heritage churches or barns, and even on the deck of the windmill. Our auditorium is frequently used for wedding receptions, sometimes for entire wedding celebrations. Our Village and our campus in general frequently provide the setting for wedding and family photo-sessions.

   In times past, the Burwalde School and many other country schools of that era created strong community ties which generated strength and health within their communities. Similarly MHV, along with other local organizations, creates community strength and health by offering meeting spaces and occasions to meet. The added benefit is that MHV itself becomes stronger and healthier as these activities generate interest and income to fund ongoing museum operations.

Calendar of Events

March 22 – 7:30 PM, MHV Annual General Meeting

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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