Village News

The Woolwich School

   The Barkfield School here at the Mennonite Heritage Village museum is a sample of the kind of one-room school that dotted the Rural Municipality (RM) of Hanover in the first half of the twentieth century. One teacher (often young, female, and single), eight grades, a huge blackboard around two walls, a picture of the King and Queen up front, and oiled plank floors.

   What were children learning in their one-room schools in the 1930s? If you are tempted to think that what the teacher and pupils covered was a primitive curriculum, think again. Ernie Braun from Tourond, has found detailed notes of courses taught at the Woolwich School by thirty-something Agnes Willms in 1929-34. Woolwich (pronounced “Wool-wich” by the Mennonites) was located at the extreme western edge of the RM of Hanover. It was during the Great Depression, and she was paid all of $450 for the year. She stayed at Woolwich for five years, which was unusual for a single woman. Often the lady teacher was whisked off to the altar by the most eligible young man of the district, not to return to the classroom.

   Agnes kept careful notes of her teaching topics in a spreadsheet, likely because she was required to show it to the school inspector at his next visit. That inspector was probably Archibald Adam Herriot. In his book, Schools, Our Heritage, John K. Schellenberg says that “the pupils were scared of him suddenly coming unannounced; the teachers loved him, especially the ladies!”

   The topics of instructions were math, language, grammar, reading, literature, spelling, geography, history, music, drawing, nature study, agriculture, physiology, and science. Whew. Agnes never recorded anything for agriculture, probably because the pupils had already had enough of that. But everything else was fair game and got some of her attention.

   To get a feeling for the curriculum, let’s look at the Grade VII literature and reading material. In November these 13-year olds were expected to read Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, and A Winter’s Tale. In December it was As You Like It. The next year it was 12th Night, Timon of Athens, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello! Seriously.

   Miss Willms seems to have been especially fond of choral music. For this, all the pupils participated together as a wonderful little choir, singing everything from simple children’s songs to Christmas carols, folk songs, and oratorio selections. They even sang the difficult old carol Past Three O’Clock (lyrics at There was also a lot of music theory, including opera. One wonders what that meant for kids in the backwoods during the Depression.

   Perhaps an example of the impact this teacher had on her students was revealed in 1981 when a group of alumni hosted a reunion of all former Woolwich students at the Grunthal park. With Agnes in the audience, a 63-year-old former Grade VII student sang several stanzas of a song that Miss Willms had taught the class in 1932.

   In those days the teacher offered a glimpse of what was called “culture.” Miss Willms was an immigrant to Canada, having been born in Russia. She was apparently comfortable with European culture and had absorbed that of British Canada. There is no hint of German or French language instruction in her notes. I’m sure Inspector Harriot was very pleased with Miss Willms’ work, and the children will have had their minds and spirits enlarged.

Calendar of Events

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

IMG 09241

Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is blessed with a number of wonderful partnerships with community organizations. One of those is with the Steinbach and Area Garden Club.

   Years ago the Garden Club and museum staff agreed that gardening services would be exchanged for meeting-room space. The Garden Club offered to look after flower beds, shrubs and the vegetable garden at MHV if they could use a meeting room at the museum for their monthly meetings. This has worked out to mutual benefit. Our Auditorium in the Village Centre is large enough to accommodate their well-attended monthly meetings. Part of the mandate of the club is to do community service, so the care of the gardens and flower beds at MHV is one of their main projects.

   Elsie Kaethler is a co-chair of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club. She recently provided me with some information about this season’s contributions to MHV by club members:

   The total work time contributed to MHV was 1,016 hours. If we had needed to hire professional gardeners at $30 per hour, that amount of time would have cost MHV just over $30,000. So this was quite a significant contribution.

   Some of the tasks that required the most time included spring cleanup, preparing flower beds and pruning – 68 hours; watering, weeding and deadheading – 328 hours; daily removal of Lily Beetles – 85 hours; Vegetable-garden care – 139 hours; fall cleanup – 58 hours; planning, mulching, leveling and planting 33 shrubs on the west side of the auditorium - 51 hours. The compiled list included many other tasks as well.

   In our conversation, Elsie informed me of the following extra efforts put in by individuals:

- “One volunteer saw that we could lose our beautiful heritage lilies to the ravages of Lily Beetles. She took it upon herself to create a "Lily Beetle Task Force" of fellow Garden Club volunteers that took turns coming out each day to hand pick and destroy the Lily Beetles before they could damage our lilies.

- “One volunteer noticed that the front of the rock monument beside the church was getting covered in lichen and dirt. He took it upon himself to bring a brush, bucket and soap and then scrubbed the monument clean.

- “One volunteer saw that the water-hose cart at the front of the Village Centre had one flat tire and another tire that was low on air. Because the flat tire was beyond repair, he purchased a new tire and a patch for the tire that was low on air. When I asked him to submit a bill for reimbursement, he refused to do so, saying ‘I can afford to do this for the Museum’

- “On a number of occasions I observed our volunteers picking up pieces of garbage on the grounds as they walked across the yard to get to the bed they were supposed to be working on, thereby setting a wonderful example of being good stewards of our environment.”

   It’s not hard to see what a great partnership this is for both organizations. MHV also has mutually beneficial relationships with other local organizations and is open to more. One of the purposes of MHV is to help make this community a great place to live. Collaboration is a wonderful way to make that happen.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Village News

Reviewing the MHV Experience

   Within the last ten to fifteen years, the internet has created a revolutionary public service: Online reviews. Individuals are encouraged to evaluate a product, service, or venue which they have personally experienced and then share their evaluation for the benefit of other potential consumers. Today, people are craving authentic, unbiased and non-commercialized input from their peers.

   For this article, I will specifically address venue reviews. Visitors to any venue want to find the best experience possible, and they want to visit “cool” places or experience “cool” things. Visitors want to know what to expect and how to enhance their experience, based on the information others have reported after attending. Comments sometimes include things the reviewer wished they had done when they were experiencing the venue, or how their experience could have been better while they were there.

   Some established organizations see online reviews as an extremely scary situation, due to their inability to influence the content of what people are saying about their venue online. The fear of being vulnerable, by allowing people to judge you openly, isn’t a comfortable feeling to most of us.

   But fear not; the formula is simple. If you are truly an attractive organization, people will leave commentary stating that, and you will continue attracting people. If you are not attractive, people will be very quick to critically state your shortfalls. So organizations are left with a choice: Become vulnerable to constructive criticism and use it to enhance and grow your organization, or reject it and press the mute button and bury your head in the sand.

   I’m pleased to see our Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) staff embracing reviews, allowing our visitors to speak about MHV from their personal perspective and to share their experience with others. You can find these reviews online, primarily in these mainstream media: TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google Reviews. Here are a few samples:

TripAdvisor: (101 Reviews) MHV scores 4.5 out of 5.

MHV is ranked the #1 “thing to do” in Steinbach & regionally. Not surprising. But when the review scope is expanded to see Manitoba’s top “things to do” provincially, it is startling to see that MHV is ranked #22, ahead of the Bell MTS Centre (#27) and Manitoba Children’s Museum (#32). (Personally I would have expected to see the Winnipeg Jets experience ranked higher.)

Reviewer - Amanda R (July 2017) rates MHV 5 out of 5.

Winnipeg, Canada

Great day trip for families. We were very impressed with how the village was organized and thought it was very well kept. People are very friendly and helpful. Great day trip with our toddler who loved running around and exploring.

Facebook: (138 Reviews) MHV scores 4.5 out of 5.

Irene Stadke (July 2017) rated MHV 5 out of 5.

We are glad we decided to stop by here on our way out of Canada. Great village, museum and restaurant. Interesting history to learn about. I highly recommend this place.

Google Reviews: (76 Reviews) MHV scores 4.4 out of 5.

Scott (Oct 2017) rated MHV 5 out of 5.

“I have always wanted to live history ever since I was a kid. I had gone here on a whim in the summer of 2017 and it was just like I remember it as a kid! I loved it so much I offered to volunteer. They put me in the printing press and I spent the day operating a 100 year old cast iron printer.
“The best part about the village is that they actually use and maintain the machines for demonstration! Much better than seeing them in a building behind glass.”

   I encourage you to go online and read for yourself what people have been saying about MHV, and maybe even leave your own review while you’re reading others’. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outside perspective of a brand-new visitor experiencing us for the first time.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Village News

VN 2017 10 19

Q & A with Jenna Klassen

   Jenna Klassen joined our team here at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in early October as our new Assistant Curator. Some of our volunteers and members of the public have had a chance to meet Jenna, but for those who have not, I thought I would sit down with her for a “Question and Answer” session about museum life and her first few weeks here at MHV.

What drew you to MHV?

   The beginning of my experience with MHV began when I was a kid. I visited many times on school field trips, as well as during Pioneer Days when my grandpa gave wagon rides with his horses in the village. I was always fascinated by the heritage buildings in the village, imagining how they had once been used and lived in by their owners so many years ago. My interest in history and museum work has been ongoing for many years, and I have been working in the museum field for about three years, mostly in smaller, community museums. Working as the Assistant Curator at MHV gives me the opportunity to explore my interest in Mennonite and immigration history, as well as further my skills and experience within the museum field and in the role of curating.

What has been the highlight of your first two weeks at MHV?  

   One highlight has been touring the heritage buildings in the village in more detail than in past visits to the museum when I was only a visitor. As part of familiarizing myself with various aspects of the Assistant Curator position, I have done some in-depth reading of the history of the various buildings, including the architectural and structural features of each that made them functional (practically and culturally) for the early Mennonite settlers. Part of this in-depth exploration of the buildings is familiarizing myself with the conservation and restoration projects that have been undertaken, or still need to be undertaken. For example, the Waldheim house recently underwent extensive restorations that were completed this last summer.  The Waldheim house demonstrates the importance of these restoration projects in order to preserve these heritage buildings, so they can continue to be part of our Mennonite village. A building that requires extensive restoration is the Peters’ Barn, which is attached to the Waldheim House. Although it looks to be in pretty good shape from the outside, there is much to be done on the inside for it to be accessible and open to museum visitors. As a curator, projects such as these are challenging but the final product is even more satisfying. I am looking forward to contributing to larger projects such as these during my time at MHV!

What projects are you working on at MHV at the moment?

   Since the outdoor village has closed for the season, the village buildings need to be prepared for the winter. This week I have been going around to each building in the village to take out the linens (bedding, curtains, tablecloths, etc.), remove the old straw from the mattresses in the village houses, take out the wall clock from the Chortitz house, and other items that need to come indoors for the winter. This is a part of preserving the objects that are on display when the village is open during the spring and summer months. It also gives us the opportunity to have everything neat and clean for when we open next spring. The linens will be washed, new curtains sewn and hung, and mattresses stuffed with fresh straw. It also allows me to work outside on a beautiful fall afternoon!

You’re undertaking some unique research with part of the MHV collection right now. Can you tell me a bit about that project?

   I am currently working at MHV in two different roles. In addition to working part-time as Assistant Curator, I am still also a student, undertaking research for my Master’s thesis, using the MHV’s artefact collection as my primary source.  Specifically, I am looking at immigration through material culture, using the artifacts brought to Canada by the “Russländer,” the Mennonites who left Ukraine (or, southern Russia, as they remembered it) in the 1920s. I am analyzing around five hundred objects that range from children’s toys to clothing to photographs to teacups. Using these objects, I am exploring what they meant to the people who brought them all the way to Canada, kept them within the family for generations, and then finally donated them to the museum collection.

And finally, the question every curator gets asked: What is an interesting artifact that you have worked with so far?

   Since I am still pretty new at MHV in my role as Assistant Curator, I have actually had more interaction with the collection through my role as a researcher. Currently, I am photographing the artefacts that I will be using for my thesis project. One of the interesting artefacts I’ve come across is a porcelain teacup that had once been broken in many pieces, but was stapled back together with thick, brass staples. This piece is interesting to me for my thesis because it suggests that the teacup meant a lot to the person it belonged to, so much in fact that they put it back together, and then packed it with their other belongings to bring to their new home in Canada. Items like this can demonstrate how objects hold meaning to the people they belong to.

   Thanks, Jenna. Although our outdoor village is now closed, our indoor galleries are still open. If you have not yet had an opportunity to take in our 2017 exhibit, Storied Places, we invite you to come and explore the stories that have shaped the Mennonite connection to place in Manitoba. While you’re here, please take a moment to share one of your own stories at our “Storied Map of Steinbach” station in the gallery.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17&18, 9:00 AM–7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Photo caption: Jenna Klassen, the new Assistant Curator at the MHV.

Village News (October 10, 2017)

Village Books and Gifts

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all of nature laughed in the sunshine.” - Anne Bronte

Our Outdoor Village at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is in the process of being tucked in for a long winter’s nap. The robins have packed their bags and are on their way to their next destination. The MHV pond is full of gaggling geese, who are busy planning their southern migration.

The 2017 season is marked by a myriad of memorable experiences that I will not soon forget. Once again we are well on our way to hosting over 40,000 guests from all over the world. Canadian travelers commented that they chose a “stay-cation” in celebration of Canada’s 150th. Festival days were filled with a wide variety of old fashioned demonstrations, hearty music, and children’s features. Visitors were elated to have the opportunity to purchase old fashioned candy and locally handmade items in the General Store located in the outdoor village.

I have personally had several conversations with guests who emphasized how impressed they were with our excellent customer service, our inclusive, family-friendly atmosphere, the impeccable condition of the village, delicious Mennonite cuisine found in our Livery Barn Restaurant, and Canada’s only functioning windmill.

Mennonite Heritage Village is one of Travel Manitoba’s top ten “Must-see-ums”. So many of our guests mentioned that the museum was on the top of their list to visit this year. Last week I chatted with a visitor from Texas who commented “We are glad we stopped in to see the museum. Friends had recommended that MHV is a must-see on our trip to Canada. We are very impressed with all the Village has to offer”.

Our Tourist Info-center continues to be a highlight filled with local information for those who are travelling across the Southeast and beyond. Our knowledgeable Reception staff daily engaged in great conversations about visitors’ family history and why they came to tour the museum. Staff take the time to listen, inform visitors of the Russian Mennonite immigration as well as help the traveler on to their next destination. Customers who make purchases in Village Books and Gifts express how impressed they are with the great selection of unique books and souvenirs found in this gift shop.

Village Books and Gifts is excited to carry titles that embrace our history, tell our story and sometimes tend to challenge our inner metal. We carry a great selection of local authors and children’s books as well as a large selection of family history books and immigration timelines.

With Christmas just around the corner, folks will drop by regularly to get that hard to find book and unique gift. We have a vast array of history books, novels, cookbooks, cards, waffle irons, old fashioned toys, wooden clothing racks and crokinole boards, dolls, games, puzzles, locally handmade jewelry and MHV Auxiliary retro aprons. Menno Apparel continues to be one of our most popular items, a feast for the eyes that tickles your funny bone. We are a store with so much more, it’s an experience. Thank you for considering the items in Village Books and Gifts. With your help MHV can continue to present the Russian Mennonite story and serve the local community with festivals, education, meeting places, and tourism.

There are many ways to support the work being done at Mennonite Heritage Village. MHV is a not-for-profit organization, so your purchase in Village Books and Gifts continues to help support MHV’s service to the community.

Calendar of Events

October 1 and following: MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

November 5: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

November 17&18: Christmas in the Village

Village News (October 5, 2017)

A “Storied Map of Steinbach”

To mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the theme at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) for 2017 is “Storied Places.” Our exhibit on this theme explores the reciprocal relationship between people and their ‘place.’ We look specifically at Mennonites in Manitoba and ask: what is the meaning that people give to place, and equally, that place gives to us as people? We do this by focusing on four topics, “Space,” “Place,” “Neglect,” and “Memory,” each of which follow the progression of the relationship Mennonites developed with their place in Manitoba from 1874 to the present.

MHV’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Russian-descendant Mennonites in Manitoba. While we stay true to our mission by focusing on the history of this specific ethno-religious group, we are also very mindful of being relevant to our increasingly diverse constituency. Our exhibit, therefore, focuses on Mennonite history but very consciously uses it as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion in our community about what our relationship to our local place really is. This exhibit is certainly about people coming away with a better understanding of the history of Mennonites in Manitoba, but our main goal was to engage people in how they think and feel about their own lives; to invite them to reflect on the points at which this history of Mennonites in Manitoba can intersect with their own lives, whether they are Mennonite or not.

To this end, each portion of the exhibit uses a key question to engage visitors, not only to learn about Mennonite history, but also to encourage them to think afresh about their own lives. In the portion of the exhibit entitled “Space,” for example, we ask: “How do you feel the first time you visit a new place?” In “Place,” we question: “What makes you feel at home in a new place?” The topic “Neglect” invites visitors to reflect on what places used to be important to them, but aren’t anymore.

The exhibit ends with the topic “Memory,” in which we look at the ways in which the Mennonite community in Manitoba has sought to remember its past in the latter half of the twentieth century. We recognize that in studying history it is important to know some of the key dates and decisions that were made, but a larger portion of history is studying how people lived, what they thought about their lives, and how they interpreted their world. So in this portion of the exhibit, we invite our guests to share some of their own stories, asking: “What stories can you tell about your home?”

This final question is the essence of the exhibit, as we’ve sought to understand how Mennonites viewed their place (and their past) and to encourage our guests to think about these same things in their own lives. As visitors exit the Gerhard Ens Gallery, we invite them to contribute to the exhibit by helping us build a “Storied Map of Steinbach.” While our constituency branches out far wider than just the city, our focus on local place in this exhibit also highlights the fact that we are members of the specific, local community in Steinbach as well. We ask our visitors to share their stories of specific places in Steinbach that have meaning for them. Visitors fill out a postcard, place it on a ledge in the exhibit, and then I “pin” those postcards to a map of Steinbach. The result is a map of the city filled with points of meaning and the stories behind why people feel this way.

While we often ask visitors to participate in our exhibits, this year’s response has been far and above the best in recent memory. People young and old, those who are new to Steinbach or who have called it home for generations, all have stories to share. Some of my favourites include:

  • “My home – I always described the street to friends as ‘the one with the churches on both ends.’”
  • “Jake Epp Library – where I first made ‘friends’ in book when I moved to Steinbach.”
  • “I got my ear medicine hear [sic]” (I choose to believe the pun was intended by this young visitor!)
  • “Before my wife and I were married, we parked on Keating Road to admire the stars! When it was time to go, my car wouldn’t start. We had to walk all the way to Sherwood Place, where her parents lived, to pick up their car to boost mine. A long and embarrassing ‘after midnight’ walk.”

To find out more about the “storied places” of Steinbach, as told by fellow Steinbachers, you’ll have to visit the “Storied Places” yourself and fill out a postcard of your own. For those who connect with us on Facebook, you can also submit a place and story of your own on our Facebook page ( as well.

Calendar of Events

October 1 and following: MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

November 5: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

The Future of our Museum

   A year ago, delegates to the annual conference of the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM) viewed a new film directed by Andy Blicq of 4th Avenue Productions. The End of our Memories laments the loss of community museums and suggests that there will likely be further casualties. The film is well done and well worth watching, but it left many of us with a heavy heart and a sense of discouragement.

   At this year’s AMM conference, presenters again reminded us of the challenges museums face, including an abundance of damaging pests and a shortage of cash and volunteers. However, they also presented many creative ideas and opportunities. All good reasons for Manitoba’s museum operators to spend a couple of days together and share stories.

   The first presentation at last weekend’s conference was by Colin Ferguson, President and CEO of Travel Manitoba, focusing on various promotional opportunities they offer our industry. Recently they have created a list of “Must-See-Ums” on their website, which provides information about featured Manitoba museums. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is fortunate to be one of the museums highlighted on that list.

   Peter Cantelon, from the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, and Joe Brown, from the Miami Museum located just 10 minutes north of Morden, talked about their recent partnership in preparing and promoting a new exhibit. As all good partnerships do, this one benefits both museums. We at MHV are also fortunate to be able to partner with various organizations, such as schools in the Hanover School Division and the Eden Foundation. No doubt additional partnerships will continue to be developed, increasing MHV’s relevance in our community.

   Rachel Erikson, Manager of Museum Programs at the Manitoba Museum, provided an overview of various programs they have used to engage different interest groups. Their Table Talk program invites a small group of people to hear a lecture on a specific subject and then discuss it over refreshments. Block-printing workshops at their museum provide a training opportunity for those interested in this craft. A yoga class held in the gallery which displays their dinosaur exhibit offered a unique yoga opportunity. These are just a few of the programs they have offered and found to be successful.

   Eric Napier Strong, Curator/Manager of Seven Oaks House Museum in Winnipeg, showed us how they are helping their museum become a meeting place in their community. MHV’s new Summer Pavilion is giving us a variety of new opportunities to provide a gathering place within our own community.

   It is evident that MHV and many other museums are struggling to find enough volunteers and dollars to continue our existing services to our communities. And these challenges are not likely to get any easier in the near future. Our task now is to become ever more creative in offering services and programs that will engage people of various demographic groups and continue to increase our relevance in our constituencies. We want to ensure a solid future for MHV in our community.

Calendar of Events

September 28: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Appreciation

September 29 & 30: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Manitoba Culture Days

September 30: Last day of restaurant and outdoor village operations

October 1, MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

Village News

Wind in our Sails

   Many communities in Manitoba have their own recognizable icon that provides identity and a conversation piece for community members and visiting tourists. These include replicas of animals, insects, plants and various other objects that in some way tell a story about the community.

   The windmill at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is such an icon for the city of Steinbach. The unique aspect of our icon is that it is a functioning machine that actually mills flour. While it is in fact a replica of the original windmill that was built in 1877, it is not an inert symbol.

   The 1877 windmill, built and operated by Abram Friesen, served the community for only two years. It was located in the area where Friesen Machine Works now operates. The arrival of the steam engine and the unpredictability of winds in this area left the windmill unsuitable for ongoing use, so it was sold and moved out of Steinbach.

   The first replica windmill was built at MHV in 1972. It was lost in a fire in 2000, but one year to the day after that fire, the current windmill was commissioned. This quick resolve to replace the former windmill speaks to the value our community places on the windmill.

   Today it is still a valuable icon to both MHV and the City of Steinbach. It attracts visitors from many countries to Southeastern Manitoba. Some of these visitors spend the night in local hotels or campgrounds, buy fuel at local stations, eat in local restaurants, and provide general economic activity here. The windmill “puts us on the map.”

   Because the windmill is a machine and not a building, and because it is made almost entirely of wood, it requires careful and ongoing maintenance. In a few weeks a millwright from Holland will spend nine days here, checking and fine-tuning its function and structure.

   Wood has a tendency to shrink and swell with variations in humidity levels. This may require periodic shimming of gears and shafts so that they will continue to run smoothly. Wood also deteriorates when exposed to the weather too long. The deck of our windmill has begun to decay and needs to be replaced. This is another project we hope to complete this fall, in addition to the professional fine-tuning. We expect the two projects combined could cost as much as $25,000.

   While the windmill is a replica of very old technology, we will now engage in some very contemporary fundraising to generate funds to cover these costs. With the help of Canada Post, we will mail-blitz over 9,000 homes in the Southeast to invite partnership in these projects. We will also make our first attempt at “crowd funding,” an internet-based method of engaging interested people in new projects. If you follow MHV on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest, you can expect to hear about our windmill project, which is literally “keeping the wind in our sails.”

   While the windmill historically had value as a piece of machinery to make feed and flour in 1877, today it has significant value as a “storyteller,” a tourist attraction, and a machine that still makes flour. If you’ve forgotten what our MHV windmill looks and smells like, come for a visit to get a nostalgic reminder.

Calendar of Events

September 28, 2017: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Appreciation

September 29 & 30: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Manitoba Culture Days

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

Village News

Stories: Tales told by idiots?

   In Shakespeare's famous play, when Macbeth hears that Lady Macbeth has just committed suicide, he cries out that his life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." He has concluded that the story of his life is just a string of events that has no meaning.

   Yes, our lives are just strings of events, one thing after another. But if that were all, there would be nothing to celebrate, nothing of lasting interest, no meaning.

   When I was at university in the 60s, it was fashionable to be an existentialist. Sartre and Camus were the heroes. Each person was totally responsible to create his or her own meaning - to create a story from scratch that brings into existence a unique individual, responsible only to self. Even though this extreme individualism now seems silly, it is still alive and well in the current trend toward political libertarianism.

   The truth is that our own personal story is just one small part of a thousand interlocking stories. If you saw me riding my bike down Abe's Hill at full speed with my arms in the air, you might think, "What is the meaning of this?" A full account of my foolhardy activity would involve the invention of the bicycle a hundred years ago, the creation of the hill by a famous former Steinbacher, the complex story of the "arms in the air" gesture, etc., etc. A tiny episode in my private life is entangled with innumerable episodes in the lives of innumerable other people in the very non-private life of my world.

   The stories of the pioneers in our area - Catholic Métis, Presbyterian Clearsprings settlers and Hanover Mennonites - are all parts of my personal story and give it meaning. They are stories of people bound together by their active embrace of their history. During the Great Depression these communities survived while "heroic" individualists abandoned their farms.

     We continue to celebrate these stories locally in our festivals, our street names, and most explicitly in our museum, Mennonite Heritage Village. And now we are also privileged to share in the experiences of the people who have come here after the pioneer era.

   Meaning comes out of stories. We tell them to convey what it's like to be alive. How did this come to be? Why is that there? How did you survive? Isn't it nice that the Pistons won? How sad about Aunt Mary! These are not tales told by an idiot; they have preludes, plots, climaxes, and denouements.

   We are always acting out of frameworks of meaning that we have been given. For one, we inherit a fully functional language in which we create our own reality with words. Our lives are roles we are playing in institutions established long before we were born. We are sons and daughters, parents, teachers, officers, mentors, believers and bicycle-club members, long after these structures were initially set in place.

   It is important for us to keep all these connections alive and to participate in them mindfully. We must know our enveloping stories and pass them on to the next generations.

Calendar of events:

September 17: 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM – Open Farm Day

September 28, 2017: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Appreciation

September 29 & 30: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Manitoba Culture Days

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

Village News

Fall on the Farm

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) held this year’s Fall on the Farm festival on Monday, September 4. This annual Labour Day event concludes our series of summer festivals.

   Fall on the Farm always contains certain elements that are not part of any other festival, and this year’s event included those unique aspects. Perhaps the major and most popular Fall on the Farm activities are the butchering demonstrations. For the hog butchering, meat from an abattoir-slaughtered hog is cut up and processed. A couple of chickens from our own small flock are used in the chicken-butchering demonstration. Part of what makes these demonstrations special is the attention our volunteer butchers give to the guests. All questions are welcome and answered to the fullest extent possible.

   Another traditional element of this fall festival is a workshop on saving seeds from your garden and preparing the garden for winter. We are grateful for the expertise and participation of the members of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club who offer this workshop.

   The MHV Auxiliary fries Apple Fritters only at this festival. These are a great substitute for the Rollkuchen that are served on numerous other festival days. The fritters are also appropriate for the season, given that many of our apple trees are overloaded with apples at this time of year.

   One of our volunteers has repaired our stationary silage chopper and offered a demonstration of its use by cutting up our garden corn and mixing it with some alfalfa. We didn’t have a lot of corn, so it was a brief demonstration and yielded very little silage. But hopefully our livestock will enjoy it in the next few days.

   The most celebratory highlight of our 2017 Fall on the Farm was the ribbon-cutting which marked the official opening of our new events centre, the Summer Pavilion. A number of MHV’s board members, staff, volunteers and supporters gathered at the Pavilion at 11:00 to commemorate this event. Congratulatory comments and reflections of thankfulness were offered by Will Peters, MHV Board Chair; Michael Zwaagstra, City of Steinbach Counselor; Barry Dyck, MHV Executive Director; and Ted Falk, Member of Parliament for Provencher (who was unable to attend but had sent a note). After the cutting of the ribbon and a prayer of dedication, the guests socialized over coffee and cookies.

   The official commissioning of our Summer Pavilion is a momentous event for MHV. Conversations about replacing our events tent with a permanent events centre go back as far as 2005. The subject became a serious topic of conversation in 2011 when the board chose it as its highest-priority project. Planning the project and raising the money to move forward took the better part of six years. Erecting our new building took only seven months.

   The building has already served us in a multitude of ways. All of our festival entertainment for our 2017 season took place in the Summer Pavilion. It was particularly valuable to have it available at Fall on the Farm, because the weather turned quite miserable with wind and rain for part of the day. If our entertainment had been staged in the tent at that time, anxiety and discomfort would have ensued. As it was, our new building provided a calm and comfortable environment.

   The Pavilion has also been used for the summer sessions of our school program, as well as for weddings, staff picnics, and a class reunion. It is so much more versatile than the tent ever was.

   While the weather was somewhat disruptive to this year’s festival, we were pleased to have just under 1,300 guests attend, undaunted by the wind and occasional rain.

   At several points during the day, an announcement informed our guests that there will be a Volunteer Appreciation event at MHV on September 28 at 7:00 PM. All MHV volunteers are welcome to attend. We want to celebrate another good year and offer words of thanks for the volunteer work that makes our museum sustainable.

Calendar of events:

September 17: 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM – Open Farm Day

September 29 & 30: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Manitoba Culture Days

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

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.