Village News

   It's been a busy summer season in the Curatorial Department at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). We opened the first of our two temporary exhibits, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, in early June, but then uninstalled it so we could open a traveling exhibit, Along the Road to Freedom, in early August. While we were choosing the artefacts, writing exhibit text, and making mounts, we were also busy taking part in all our regular summer events. We hung out at Summer in the City, inviting people to guess what the artefact we were displaying in our booth was called, and we also gave tours at MHV on our festival days.

   I've had people ask me what we could possibly be working on after the Village closes on September 30. The Curatorial Department is certainly less visible to the public than some other areas of museum life, but we’re always busy working behind the scenes, regardless of the season.

   First on our agenda now will be uninstalling and then reinstalling the two previously mentioned exhibits. Along the Road to Freedom closes after Thanksgiving (October 10), at which point we will uninstall it and ship it to its next destination, and then focus on reinstalling Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women in the gallery space. Beyond Tradition will open for this second showing in our Gerhard Ens Gallery on October 24 and run until spring 2017.

   During the winter we have the opportunity to complete all of the tasks that we didn't have time for during the summer. I myself will be dealing with all the artefacts that we accepted over the summer and didn't have time to catalogue. This will help me complete another of my goals, which is to tidy our office and lab space. Maybe I'll even have the time to complete a few of the projects I started last winter!

   Our major project for the winter will be planning next year's exhibit, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation. Although there weren't any Mennonites in Manitoba in 1867, we want to celebrate this occasion from a uniquely Mennonite perspective. Over the winter we will be doing research and refining our exhibit concept. Then, based on our research, we will tease out the major themes that we want to focus on, do more research, and choose which artefacts to display to support the story we're telling. We are always looking for opportunities to build relationships with schools and organizations in our community, so a major part of our theme for 2017 will be a specific focus on strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones, as we seek to extend MHV’s celebration of Canada’s 150th into the community. Stay tuned for more details on our exciting new theme and watch for some of the ways we’ll be partnering with local students and other organizations to share in this significant celebration!

   While for many people December 1 signals the start of the Christmas season, for our Curatorial Department it also signals the height of the annual “Grant-Writing Season.” One of our projects over the summer has been to conduct a thorough Building Maintenance Inventory, which encompassed all our heritage buildings and replicas in the Village. This vital tool will help us identify the buildings most in need of maintenance and restoration work and will guide our grant-writing process over the next months. We rely on grants to perform expensive maintenance on our priceless heritage buildings in the Village, to help us prepare and present a new exhibit every year, and to complete other projects throughout the year. Without support from granting agencies, we simply wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at MHV. Our Curatorial Department is especially appreciative of the support we’ve received from a number of funders for projects that we have either finished this past summer or will continue working on for next year. These include the Canada 150: Community Infrastructure Program at the federal level and the Heritage Grants Program and Community Places at the provincial level.

   After our grant applications have been submitted, it's only a short while until we re-open the Village and dive head-first into the Summer 2017 season with the implementing of our new theme, including the installation of our new exhibit. As you can see, our Curatorial Department isn't busy with the same things all year round, but there is rarely a dull moment, and even before the first snowflake flies we’re already planning for the long, hot summer days of next year.

Calendar of Events

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

- September 30: Last day of operations for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the outdoor village.

Village News

“Who are your parents?”

   When I am introduced to people who have a few more years behind their belts than I do, I’m frequently asked that question we’ve likely all been asked at one time or another: “So who are your parents?” And because I grew up in the Burwalde school district between Winkler and Morden, the people from my present home community rarely recognize the names of Peter B. and Mary Dyck.

   And really the question is often larger than just who my parents are. What people want to know is whether they know any of my relatives. The fact that Mr. Gerhard G. Kornelsen, a former educator and Watkins sales representative in Steinbach, was married to my grandfather’s sister, Annie P. Dyck, might be interesting to some. This means that Mary, Bill and Ernie Kornelsen were my father’s cousins. Or they might be interested to know that my maternal grandparents, Abram F. and Helena Klassen, each came to the Grunthal area as children in the late 1800s, grew up there, and then moved to the Hordean area in the former West Reserve after they were married. It seems that the knowledge of who one’s relatives are begins to create an identity in the mind of the inquirer. In other words, people want to learn something about me through my ancestry. Or maybe they just enjoy genealogical research.

   This common exercise is often referred to as “the Mennonite game, ”although I doubt that it is uniquely Mennonite. I’m pretty sure that people from other ethnic groups make similar inquiries of people whom they would like to get to know better.

   At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) it is quite acceptable to inquire about one’s ancestry, because many of the people one encounters here are interested in things historical. Such people know that there are many fascinating stories in our ancestors’ lives, stories that in many cases have shaped us into the people we are today.

   For a number of years, MHV regularly hosted a Roots and Family History Day each April. This was an event where people who have pursued family-history research in a significant way could set up a table with their research materials and findings at hand and be available to talk with others who might be considering or already engaging in a similar project. Ideas, methodology, records and resources could be shared, often to mutual benefit.

   When that annual event was eventually phased out, a Family History Centre was created as a regular feature at each of our festival events.  Our Family History Centre is staffed by several volunteers who have considerable experience in doing genealogical research and are adept at using the GRANDMA (Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) program. The latest version of this database contains more than one million Russian Mennonite names and includes tools to determine how individuals are related to one another. Our Family History Centre staff enjoy asking if you want to know how you are related to a Mennonite celebrity like Jonathan Toews, James Reimer, Fred Penner or others.

   One of our volunteers started using the program on his home computer recently and now researches the ancestry of many of the people he meets. For him, it’s an enjoyable way to spend leisure time. But for others, the significant part of the exercise is to discover who one’s ancestors are, where they came from, where they lived, and perhaps even where they are buried. Who were those relatives from a century or more ago? What factors may have affected their lives and shaped who they became? Who are the other people whose lives might have been affected by these same ancestors? What do we have in common with those people today?

   This intriguing database can be found at grandmaonline.org or on a disc that can be purchased at Village Books and Gifts. We have volunteers who are quite willing to help people get started on the program. Other online ancestry databases are available as well. If you’re getting bored with sitcoms or Solitaire, perhaps genealogy would be a beneficial new hobby for you to explore.

Calendar of Events

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

- September 30: Last day of operations for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the outdoor village.

Village News

Volunteerism

   Our Education Program’s summer staff members, Jaycia Koop and Nia Rogers, have completed their work at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) for the 2016 season. Both are students so are back at school. They served MHV very capably and adapted well to our team and our environment.

   Their work was demanding and sometimes quite intense. It was their responsibility to design the various elements of our Education Program, both for school tours and for our Pioneer Day-Camps. Virtually every day during May and June they were recruiting the volunteers needed to deliver the program. Additionally, they recruited most of the volunteers needed for our six summer festival days.

   Their individual end-of-season reports discuss various aspects of the completed programs, including concerns arising from their observations and experiences throughout the summer. The concern that is noted most frequently is our critical need for an ongoing supply of new volunteers. Our pool of volunteers is constantly changing as new people come onboard and existing volunteers phase out. Those who leave us do so for a variety of reasons: relocation to another community, involvement with a different charity, failing health or energy, loss of interest, etc. These are largely factors that we have no control over.

   Similarly, the new volunteers who join our team do so for a variety of reasons. Some come because they have recently retired and need a new way to contribute to their community. Others come because they have just moved into our community, and volunteering is something they do wherever they live. Many come because a current volunteer or staff member has encouraged them to give it a try. While we were pleased to again add some new volunteers to our team this year, the reports from our Education Program staff indicate that we lost more volunteers than we gained. This is quite concerning, to say the least.

   We recognize that this past summer had some unique elements to it which made our volunteer recruitment more challenging than usual. The Manitoba Summer Games, a great event in and for our community, required a large number of helpers and needed to do their recruitment at the same time that we were recruiting for Pioneer Days. A common response we heard was that Pioneer Days is here every year, but the Summer Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is true and an understandable perspective.

   The Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin always holds its annual Reunion on the last weekend of July. Pioneer Days always takes place on the first weekend of August. Every few years these two festivals actually end up happening on the same weekend, as was the case this year. Additionally this was a very special year for Austin’s museum, as they would be attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for number of threshing machines operating at one time. While this was certainly an admirable venture, it did create some unanticipated challenges for our volunteer recruiters.

   Our volunteer pool is a mixture of demographic groups, particularly on festival days. We are happy to have youth, retired people and even career people on our team for those days. For weekday activities, such as school tours, we need to rely on volunteers who do not have careers. These are mostly retired people and some home-schooled students. We are grateful for these willing people and they do great work. But the supply is seriously limited.

   Volunteer supply is a challenge for most museums and for many other charities whose operations depend on significant numbers of volunteer helpers. Volunteers will most likely join an organization where they are given engaging work in a pleasant work environment. And perhaps most importantly, these people need to see that what they do is significant to the wellbeing of their community and to the cause being supported by that organization.

   We are pleased that the Hanover School Division has developed a program where students can get credit for volunteering a certain number of hours in the community. MHV usually receives one or two of these student volunteers each summer.

   It is commendable that so many people in this community see value in volunteering. The efforts of our current volunteers to actively recruit others to join them at MHV are significant. And we deeply appreciate the ongoing support of the many volunteers who respond to our calls for help again and again.

   Everyone who has volunteered at MHV this year in any capacity is invited to our annual Volunteer Appreciation event on September 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Village Centre Auditorium.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM

Village News

Fall on the Farm

   The last “festival” event of our 2016 season has now taken place at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). After our Canada Day celebrations, then Pioneer Days on the August long weekend, Fall on the Farm has once again completed our trio of annual MHV festivals. We still have a number of other events on our calendar, but this brings to a close the high-intensity preparations and volunteer recruitment that are part of every MHV festival season. Now it’s time to focus on planning next year’s festivals.

   Despite heavy rain this past Sunday and a somewhat uncertain forecast for Monday, we were pleased to see how many people chose to spend their Labour Day holiday with us. We wondered if perhaps Sunday’s rain brought some people home early from their cottages and campgrounds, allowing them to participate in our Fall on the Farm festivities.

   Once again the village was teaming with small children, who found great pleasure in the face painting, barrel-train rides, horse-drawn wagon rides, inflatable play structures, petting zoo, pony rides and other children’s activities. As usual, Mr. Ken made an appearance on our main stage under the tent with his latest family magic-and-comedy show. This popular entertainer has become quite a hit with many children and their parents.

   The main stage also featured two other bands: Hollis Brown entertained us with a set of Blue-Grass and Folk music, and 5 Acres provided both classic and contemporary Country music. While our tent is a wonderful venue for these slightly informal concerts, we are looking forward to having our new Summer Pavilion in place for our 2017 season. While many people sit inside the tent to enjoy to the performances, many are also able to listen from the picnic area just outside the tent. Our new Pavilion is intended to replicate that type of open environment.

   The local Steam Club worked hard to catch up on the threshing that didn’t get done during Pioneer Days. They processed four loads of sheaves, which yielded almost two wagon-loads of grain and a large pile of straw. Our animals will be well fed again next summer. Because the steamer was needed for the threshing machine, the sawmill operators enlisted a gas-powered tractor to operate the sawmill.

   One of the unique and most-popular features of this fall festival is the butchering demonstrations. Hog and chicken butchering were both carried out, as these were common fall activities on many farms. It’s quite remarkable how many people gather round to observe. MHV volunteers also made butter with an old-fashioned churn, baked bread in an out-door clay oven, quilted, made dill pickles and provided various other demonstrations.

   Food is always an important element in each of our festival events. The Livery Barn Restaurant serves the ethnic Russian Mennonite dishes like Vereniki, Cabbage Borscht, Farmer Sausage, Rhubarb Plautz and various other tasty dishes. The MHV Auxiliary faithfully bakes their famous waffles and serves them with vanilla sauce. During the fall festival, they also serve fresh deep-fried apple fritters in place of watermelon and Rollkuchen. The other unique food item that makes an appearance at Fall on the Farm is corn on the cob. Freshly cooked and rolled in butter, it’s a nice snack.

   Although our festival season has now come to an end, there are a few other events still on tap at MHV in 2016. On September 18 we will again offer Supper from the Field. This is a dinner highlighting locally grown items, presented in conjunction with Open Farm Day, an annual event sponsored by the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies. And on September 22 we will be celebrating our many volunteers with a Volunteer Appreciation evening. In addition to these events, the MHV Auxiliary will be hosting a dinner on September 29, with The Right Honorable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, as our special guest. So we will continue to see a lot of activity at MHV for the next few weeks.

   Today someone asked me why a festival like Fall on the Farm is important. In addition to the fact that it helps us remember and learn from the history that got us to where we are today, it also provides a gathering place for the community. We get together to celebrate, to eat good food, to enjoy one another’s company and to build community. The festivals at MHV contribute to the health of our community.

Calendar of Events

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Signature Museums

   This week a couple of my online news feeds informed me that the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre has been appointed to the province’s Signature Museums Program. This program, administered by the Historic Resources Branch of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection, “assists selected museums that showcase special collections related to Manitoba’s unique historical development, and that have the potential to be significantly enhanced heritage attractions.”

   With this appointment, there are now seven Signature Museums in our province. The other six are the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, the Manitoba Agriculture Museum in Austin, the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, the Saint-Boniface Museum in Winnipeg and the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, also in Winnipeg. Each museum collaborates with the Historic Resources Branch to develop programing that is then supported with funding from the department.

   The Signature Museums Program focuses on five key result areas: the sustainability/visibility of the museum, the accessibility and quality of its programs, the museum’s stewardship practices with respect to its collection, the economic partnerships within its community, and the involvement of the community in supporting the museum’s operations. Goals and objectives are established in each of these areas, and funding is provided each calendar quarter. Capital projects are not eligible for funding under this program.

   This is a beneficial program for a museum to participate in, as it directs focus into areas that are significant to the growth and development of an institution. Expertise in museum operations is also provided as part of the package. We value the opportunity to consult with these knowledgeable resource people.

   We also value our collaboration with the other Signature Museums. Representatives from each usually meet together several times annually, sometimes just to share ideas and experiences and sometimes to strategize about joint marketing endeavours under the Signature Museums name.

   The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will be a good addition to our group. It has demonstrated creativity and assertiveness in promoting its programs to the public. One of its feature activities is a Fossil Dig Adventure Tour, where the participant has the opportunity to dig for fossils on one of their sites in the region. This is the kind of “experiential tourism” that many people are looking for today.

   As is the case with the other Signature Museums, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre will challenge each of us to explore new opportunities that will help keep our museums alive and vital in a very lively and exciting tourism market. To be sure, healthy museums also bring positive influences to the communities in which they are located.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field – 5:30 PM

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event – 7:00 PM

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

VN 2016 08 25 model

   This summer we were pleased to accept into our collection three models built by Harold Fast. About thirty years ago, he made models of the houses his maternal grandparents and his wife's paternal grandparents built around Gruenfeld, Manitoba (now Kleefeld), as well as a model of an ice slide built on the Gruenfeld school yard for several winters.

   Gruenfeld was the first Mennonite village established after the 1874 migration from Russia to Canada. It was settled by families from the Kleine Gemeinde (now Evangelical Mennonite Conference), the same group that founded Steinbach. Both Harold's family and his wife Nettie's family were among the original settlers of the town.

   Harold's great-grandparents, Jacob L. (1839-1893) and Maria (Rempel) Dueck (1840-1917) came to Canada in 1875 with one of the first waves of Mennonite emigrants from Russia. They settled in Gruenfeld, where Jacob’s father, sister, and brothers were already living. Jacob and Maria built the Schein, or barn annex used as storage (not pictured), on their lot in the village in 1886 and built the barn in 1898. When the Duecks' son Heinrich (1873-1944) and his wife Katharina (Reimer) Dueck (1878-1921) purchased their own rural property in 1907, they left his parents' house in the village but moved the Schein and the barn onto their new property. They built a new house and attached it by way of a summer kitchen to the relocated outbuildings to make a housebarn - a traditional Mennonite dwelling, two examples of which can be found at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

   One thing that intrigued us about the model of the Fast homestead was its mixture of traditional Mennonite architecture and more modern architecture. Judging by the model, the new house had a traditional layout at first, but over the years Heinrich and Katharina built two additional stories and a porch on the front, eventually making it a far more "modern" design.

   Heinrich and Katharina’s daughter Elisabeth (1904-1976) and her husband George Fast (1901-1993) bought the housebarn after Heinrich's death in 1944. They moved in there with their six children, Harold included. Harold didn't live there for long, as he got married four or five years after moving there, but he still remembers the house well. By the time the Fasts moved in, there was modern plumbing and mostly-modern heating; Harold still remembers shoveling wood into the furnace.

   This was the last housebarn built in the Gruenfeld area. George and Elisabeth lived there until Elisabeth's death in 1976. George remarried a year or two later and moved out in 1978. The house is still standing and is still owned by this family. 

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Along the Road to Freedom

   On August 9 we celebrated the opening of our latest exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery. Along the Road to Freedom is a collection of 26 paintings created by artist Ray Dirks, who is also the Curator at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg. This exhibit is on loan to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and will occupy our temporary gallery till October 12, 2016.

   In 2008 a group of four people approached Alf Redekopp, then- director of the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, and Ray Dirks with a vision to preserve the stories of Mennonite women who brought their families out of Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and during World War II. In most cases the husbands of these women had been killed or taken from their families in horrific ways. Alf and Ray accepted the challenge, and the project began. And now, eight years later, the completed exhibit has arrived at MHV.

   On opening night, MHV Curator Andrea Dyck created the context in which these stories took place by providing an overview of the conditions Mennonites faced in the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution and World War II. Eckhard Goerz read a poetic narrative of his family’s experiences during this time. Ray Dirks talked about the process of collecting these stories and turning them into works of art.

   To remind us that the plight of refugees is still very real and current, Pastor Shadrach Mutabazi, attending with his wife Miriam and two daughters, talked about the family’s experiences as refugees from Congo.

   Pastor Shadrach’s stories and those of the women depicted in the paintings are moving and often horrific. Those of us who have not lived through such experiences can only be grateful that we have been spared.

   Many Russian Mennonite refugees journeyed for years before reaching Canada or Paraguay, where they were finally able to settle and create a new home. Family members sometimes became ill and died along the way. Anna Goosen Giesbrecht, grandmother of Wanda Andres, lost her husband and her son in the Soviet Union and led her remaining six children to freedom in Canada over a period of years. In an act of desperation, she eventually sold her wedding ring in order to purchase food for her family.

   It is remarkable how so many of these people held onto their faith in a loving God throughout their extremely difficult experiences. One can’t help but ask the question, “How would my own faith come through similar circumstances?”

   The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that globally 65.3 million people are currently displaced from their homes. Of these, 21.3 million have fled the country in which they were living and are now refugees. Many Canadians are once again responding to this crisis with generosity, as has been the case in the past.

   Along the Road to Freedom is a moving exhibit, to say the least, especially for the four individuals whose vision led to its creation-- Wanda Andres, Henry Bergen, Nettie Dueck, and Hans Funk. All four were able to attend the exhibit opening on August 9.

   The Gerhard Ens Gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the end of August, and then to 5 p.m. through September and October.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

Alternative Service

   Last weekend my family held our twenty-ninth annual family gathering at Clear Lake, in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park. Our first gathering at this location took place in 1988 to celebrate my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. We enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again the next year, and have gathered at the same place every year since then. While my parents are no longer with us the group has doubled in size from 13 to 26 members.

   As we spend time in the park I am reminded of my father’s stories from his time as a Conscientious Objector (CO). Mennonites, and other faith groups, have often been exempt from military service based on their religious convictions. This was the case in Russia and also in Canada.

   During the Second World War COs were given the opportunity to serve their country through various forms of alternative service. The areas in which they worked included construction of national parks, forestry services, and healthcare. They were typically given room and board, some of which was quite Spartan, and an allowance of $25.00 per month. The balance of their wages went to the Red Cross.

   There were several initiatives in Riding Mountain National Park. A decision had been made to build a detention camp in the park for German prisoners of war. Firewood was in demand at the time and this camp was built to produce firewood from trees that remained after forest fires. Conscientious Objectors participated in the construction of the Whitewater Camp on Whitewater Lake, northwest of Clear Lake and Wasagaming.

   Road and dam construction was also a part of the contribution of the COs. A dam was built at Whirlpool Lake just northeast of Clear Lake.

   My father spent a relatively brief time in Riding Mountain National Park. From there he was sent to the Campbell River area on Vancouver Island to plant trees, fight forest fires and cut down snags, the trees that remained standing after a forest fire.

   While many COs chose, because of their belief system, not to enlist in the military, they did make significant contributions to Canada during a time of war. Consider the impact our national parks have had, not only on tourists but also on the Canadian economy. Consider the value of the millions of trees planted in reforestation programs during that time. It is important to appreciate all the contributions made to our country, especially during the time of distress that war brings. To me, Clear Lake represents a tribute to the courageous men who stood firm on their convictions but still found ways to serve their country.

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Village News

   As you may be aware, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Manitoba by concentrating on Mennonite women both, in our exhibits and in our interpretation of the Village. As part of this theme, we are welcoming a traveling exhibit, Along the Road to Freedom, to MHV from August 9 to October 10, 2016. Featuring twenty-six paintings by artist and curator Ray Dirks, Along the Road to Freedom pays tribute to the women who led their families out of Russia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and in the midst of World War Two, often in the absence of their fathers, husbands, and brothers, who had been conscripted, killed, or arrested.

   Each painting from this exhibit, which has never been shown in its entirety in southeast Manitoba, creates a memory mosaic of the woman it features. Alongside the paintings will be artefacts from the MHV collection showcasing objects that immigrants from the 1920s and 1940s deemed too necessary or too precious to leave behind in the Soviet Union.

   The paintings and artefacts ask us all – not just Mennonites of European heritage – to remember and honour the stories of the women, strong or frail, certain or unsure, forging ahead or struggling to survive, who are responsible for our living good lives at peace, far from lands and times of uncertainty and fear.

   Some of the women featured in this exhibit include:

  • Judith (Dyck) Epp (1835-1906) was a widow when she came to Canada in 1893 with her grown children. Even though women were not typically able to have large roles in their churches at this time, Judith was involved in founding the Eigenheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan, and was active in her congregation until her death.
  • Anna (Dick) Bergmann (1880-1961) lived on an estate in Russia with her family. She and her family lost everything after the Russian Revolution, including her husband and all male relatives over the age of eighteen. She left Russia with her six children in 1924 and settled on a farm in Glenlea, Manitoba.
  • Katja Goerz (1916-2013) and her family fled to Germany in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, but were not able to immigrate to Canada, so they settled in a Mennonite colony in Brazil instead. She and her husband returned to Germany with their two children in 1939, just was World War Two was breaking out. They fled Poland with the retreating German army in 1945 and spent time in a refugee camp. They were finally able to immigrate to Canada in 1948.

   Join us on Tuesday, August 9th at 7:30 p.m. for the official opening of Along the Road to Freedom (free admission for the evening). Artist Ray Dirks will speak about the exhibit, and Curator Andrea Dyck will provide historical context. Others will speak about their individual experiences as refugees. All are welcome. 

   Along the Road to Freedom opens to the public on Wednesday, August 10th, and will run until Monday, October 10th.

Calendar of Events

- August 8-12: Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 9: Opening of exhibit in Gerhard Ens Gallery – 7:30 PM

- August 10: Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

Village News

Pioneer Days

   Pioneer Days is one of Steinbach’s signature summer festivals and the climax of our summer season at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). This year the festival runs from July 29 through August 1, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and closing at 6:00 p.m. daily. As usual, we will pack as much fun and education into those four days as we possibly can.

   There are a number of reasons why we host this summer festival. One of the primary purposes is to promote the work of MHV within our constituency. With cooperation from the City of Steinbach and the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce, this festival is always initiated on Friday morning with the Pioneer Days Parade. As usual, this year’s parade will start at the Fire Hall and make its way downtown along Main Street. Thousands of spectators will likely gather on the sidewalks to enjoy this event. Assuming suitable weather, we expect to see up to 7,000 guests visiting our museum grounds during those four festival days. While many of our guests will be from Southeastern Manitoba, there will also likely be many from Winnipeg and other parts of the province, as well as other provinces and countries.

   Another significant reason for holding Pioneer Days at MHV is to expose our guests to the culture and heritage of the Russian Mennonite people. Our heritage buildings will be staffed by volunteer interpreters who will explain to our guests what a worship service was like in the Old Colony Worship House, how a school classroom functioned differently in the Public School as compared to the Private School, and what unique features can be found in the Chortitz House Barn. Volunteers will also do pioneer demonstrations such as bread baking in the outdoor oven, steam-powered threshing, blacksmithing, log sawing, and butter making. In some cases, guests will be given the opportunity to try their hand at some of these activities.

   Organizing and staging Pioneer Days also creates meaningful activity around which our community can gather and nurture community spirit. In addition to parade involvement, people are invited to volunteer for a wide variety of roles during this festival. There are opportunities to welcome guests at the admission gates, help guests find a place to park their cars, prepare and serve food in the Short-Order Booth, drive the barrel train and the horse-drawn wagons, and many others.

   There will be bands playing in the tent each afternoon, providing entertainment for those who are enjoying waffles and vanilla sauce around picnic tables, as well as those who bring lawn chairs and sunflower seeds to sit in the shade and enjoy the music. Children will be busy running from the petting zoo to the barrel train to the kids’ activity tent to the horse-drawn wagon rides. And when their energy begins to wane, they will stop at the candy booth to refuel.

   With 7,000 guests coming through our gates, we will expect a significant cash injection into our coffers. While this has a considerable impact on our cash position, Pioneer Days actually generates less than 10% of our total operating revenue. Since MHV is a charity, every dollar is important, and we value every admission ticket, souvenir, meal and ride purchased here.

   Our upcoming Pioneer Days festival will again give us the opportunity to share stories and information from our past, attract thousands of tourists and other guests to our community, and provide local residents with a celebratory summer festival.

Calendar of Events

- July 29–August 1: Pioneer Days - 9:00-6:00 daily

- August 8-12: Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 9-12

- August 10: Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by SteinbachOnline.com

Steinbachonline.com 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.

Login