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Pioneer Day gives modern folks a look at the past

“This is quite a privilege to sit in this rocking chair,” Don Eliason said Sunday afternoon as he enjoyed the activities at Kenmare’s Pioneer Day.

7/11/12 (Wed)

Machinery row . . . On display in the new machinery barn at
the Kenmare Pioneer Village are tractors from the Ival Mogren
collection, as well as other antique farm equipment pieces.
The tractors include a 1944 Co-op, 1947 Gambles Farmcrest,
1948 Allis Chalmers, and a 1941 McCormick Deering. The General,
a 28" International Harvester wood threshing machine and binder
from the Marlyn King family are also on display.


By Caroline Downs

“This is quite a privilege to sit in this rocking chair,” Don Eliason said Sunday afternoon as he enjoyed the activities at Kenmare’s Pioneer Day.

Eliason was probably the only visitor at Pioneer Village who had the authority to sit in that particular rocking chair, a wooden rocker on display in Anne’s Dress Shop. The chair once belonged to his grandfather, Tollef Rasmusson, and Eliason recalled rocking in that very chair as a child.

“They homesteaded about eight miles west of Coulee and he lived to be about a hundred years old,” Eliason said as he leaned against the back of the still-solid chair.

Eliason taught sixth grade classes in Kenmare for three years, then continued his teaching career in Minot, where he still lives. He makes occasional visits to Kenmare and he knew the rocking chair had been donated to Pioneer Village, but Sunday marked his first visit to the Village in several years.

“The chair’s in very good condition,” he said as he kept rocking. “[My grandfather] was very particular and he took care of things. This fits just right.”

While Eliason reminisced about his family’s old rocker, other visitors took in events at Pioneer Day, including the popular old-fashioned hymn sing, a scavenger hunt through the buildings, the log-cutting contest and the roasted pig supper with an estimated 400 plates of slow-cooked pork served.

“We were happy with the day,” said Lake County Historical Society president Bryan Quigley. “It was a very successful day and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

While many people enjoy the established building exhibits, Quigley, other board members and the Pioneer Village volunteers make sure visitors will see something new each year. “This year we added the lights and the stained glass windows for Hope Lutheran Church,” Quigley said. Those windows are displayed in the Niobe Hall at this time.

The new implement building, constructed last fall, was a favorite with several visitors. Lawrence Ankenbauer’s stationary motors display set up near the building’s east door attracted plenty of attention. Curious onlookers then viewed the rest of the tractors and other vehicles currently parked in the building.

“Some of the tractors that came in on display for the day will be on loan in that building,” Quigley said, adding the owners were happy to have a safe place to keep their vintage equipment out of the weather.

Most people walked around the Village on Sunday, but golf carts were available to accommodate special needs. One individual who now lives in a nursing home in Stanley was actually given a tour of the implement building directly from his vehicle. “He stayed in the van, so we drove him right into the new building so he could see the things he donated on display in there,” Quigley said.

Another special feature of the 2012 Pioneer Day, held during an election year, was the presence of four of the five candidates for the Ward County Commissioners race, along with District 4 North Dakota House of Representative candidates Glen Froseth (R), Tom Conklin (D) and Kenton Onstad (D). The candidates were allowed a brief opportunity at the microphone in exchange for entering the Pioneer Day log-cutting contest.

The speeches flew faster than the wood chips did, and reigning champions Tim and Missy Harris retained their title. Everyone had fun cheering the teams, however, and the contest entry fees combined with raffle ticket sales, free will donations for the meal and sales of old-fashioned soda beverages to raise just over $15,000 to benefit Pioneer Village.

Quigley said the proceeds will likely be spent to install a foundation under Duffy’s Building, which features detailed indoor exhibits with KHS sports memorabilia and former Kenmare businesses.

“The whole floor on the west end is heaving,” he said. “It’s come up about a foot. The bids came in for that at $24,000, so [Sunday’s proceeds] will go a long way toward covering that.”

The only problem Quigley noticed during Pioneer Day was some vandalism to a few exhibits caused by unsupervised children. He listed damages to typewriters set up in the bank display, a piano and some of the globe lights.

“We’ve got some work to do to repair things now,” he said, “but we have cameras in our buildings out there. I’ll be meeting with some parents, and I’m going to suggest parents can do some community service out there with their children. We always have projects to do.”

The grand finale for Pioneer Day took place on the stage built in front of the Norma Hall as a group of actors from the area performed the melodrama “In Search of the Holy Grill,” directed by Devonne Hanson.

The audience booed the banker villain Char Coal, who lied, cheated and stole his way to foreclose on the town’s church, where the Reverend Paul Pitt attempted to manage his choir and his secretary. The script was filled with church humor and barbecue-related puns that kept the crowd chuckling.

The dramatic conclusion came when Miss Fitt the inept secretary revealed herself as Miss Take, the Anti-Nefarious Gangster Law Enforcer or A.N.G.L.E., which she spelled as “ANGEL.” She brought justice to the church and hauled Char Coal away while the choir rejoiced and the audience cheered.

Pioneer Village is happy to receive monetary contributions or volunteer help for the ongoing projects. For more information or to arrange a tour of the Village any time before Labor Day, contact Quigley at 701-467-3444 or Cindy Rytter at 701-385-4248.