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

Village News

   This year’s first session of Pioneer Day Camp at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) was a great success! The camp ran July 11-15 for 5- to 8-year-olds. Each day, all participants were able to dress up in costumes that we have here at the museum: dresses, overalls, aprons, bonnets and hats. They loved it!

   The first day, the kids got a tour of the Village. They learned all about “Pioneer Life” as we journeyed from the Semlin to the housebarn, with stops at the schoolhouse, windmill, and Old Colony church.

   “Life in the Village” day involved the kids going to work in the blacksmith shop, and learning about making flour at the windmill. They also got to visit the private school, where they practiced math and writing on slate boards. Each child was able to help make a cup-and-ball game, which is a simple handmade game that was common for pioneer children.

   “Life at Home” day consisted of learning to bake Schnetje biscuits, playing a washboard laundry relay game, helping out with farm chores, and then enjoying our freshly baked Schnetje with strawberry-rhubarb jam in the summer kitchen!

   On “Transportation” day, the children experienced a variety of different transportation modes. Some were old-fashioned, such as the horse-drawn wagon and old fire engine, and some were more modern rides, such as the barrel-train ride! The kids were thrilled to be able to sit on all the old tractors and trucks!

   One of my favorite activities of the week was the creation  of quilt journals. Quilting patterns can represent different meanings or tell a story, and we thought this would be a great way for the kids to reflect on their week and have something to show their parents at the end. Each child was given a large piece of cardstock, divided into sections. Before the end of each day, the kids got time to journal a highlight of their day or something they learned. Some wrote a short line with a drawn picture, while others wrote full paragraphs of all their fun. We used scraps of patterned paper to make quilt-like patches as a flap over their journal sections. We had been taking pictures during the various activities throughout the week, and I got a bunch of those developed so they could be added to the quilt journals to help the kids tell their stories and share their experience.

   I was excited for this activity – but I wasn’t sure if the kids would be as thrilled about it. They LOVED it! It was so neat to see them get excited about writing and piecing together their quilt stories. And by the end of the week, all the patches were complete and they looked amazing!

   On the final day, the kids were able to showcase a craft and share a highlight of their week with the parents. We ended off the day with rides for everyone on the horse-drawn wagon and the barrel train. It was a wonderful way to end a wonderful week! And now we look forward to our next Pioneer Day Camp session, to be held the week of August 8-12! This camp is for children ages 9-12. Spaces are still available, so call me at 204-326-9661 to register your child or grandchild.

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

Village News

Museum Governance

   It is not uncommon to be asked, “Who owns Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV)?” This is a reasonable question, in light of the size and complexity of our museum and the fact that museums are often owned by municipal governments. However, MHV is incorporated and is owned by its members.

   Membership is available to anyone who is interested in the mission and vision of MHV. Our stated mission is “to preserve and exhibit, for present and future generations, the experience and story of the Russian Mennonites and their contributions to Manitoba.” Our stated vision is that “MHV will be the premier interpretive centre for the Russian Mennonite story.” Interested individuals and families may purchase either annual or life-time membership.

   MHV communicates with its members several times a year through its mailed newsletter, Village Voice, and provides an annual overview at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) each spring. Our AGM is also the time when members are asked to make some decisions regarding the governance of the museum. Such decisions include the election of a board of directors, the acceptance of bylaws, and the approval of a new budget. Any proposed changes to MHV’s stated mission or vision would also be presented to the members for approval at an AGM.

   With these fundamental pieces in place, the board is then charged with the responsibility of governing our museum. At MHV, the board functions as a governance board as opposed to a management board. This means the board is not involved in the day-to-day management of the operation but rather oversees the fundamentals of mission, vision and values. In other words, our board addresses the purpose of our museum and the way it goes about pursuing that purpose.

   The board of directors is also responsible to hire a senior manager (referred to as the Executive Director), to monitor and evaluate the work of that manager, to develop and approve strategic priorities, and to approve an operating budget. The implementation of the strategic plan within the context of the approved budget then becomes the responsibility of the senior manager.

   MHV’s Nominating Committee looks for a variety of qualities and skills when recruiting new board members. First and foremost, directors on our board need to be passionate about the work of this museum. While it is desirable to have strong representation from our local community, it is also valuable to have some members from the broader Mennonite constituency. While curatorial staff at our museum are typically well-educated historians, it is important to also have a few more historians on the board. Since we are not large enough to have a Chief Financial Officer, it is essential to have a skilled accountant or two on our board. In many respects, MHV operates as a business, so seasoned business people bring value to the work of the board. It is also important that there be individuals who are willing and able to accept board leadership roles (President, Vice-President, Secretary), as well as chair committees.

   MHV’s board of directors meets for quarterly reporting meetings and for two additional meetings specifically scheduled to process things like the strategic plan and the budget. These are evening meetings, which typically start with supper and wind up by 9:00 p.m.

   While our Nominating Committee works hard to find people who have all these skills plus the time and willingness to do the work, they are always open to suggestions from outside the committee. Contact Barry Dyck at [email protected] to pass along the name of a potential candidate. It takes a “community” to own and operate a museum.

Calendar of Events

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

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

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

Village News

Faith and History

   We are grateful for the many generous financial donations we have been receiving recently. This week one of those gifts was accompanied by a card in which the donor expressed gratitude for the work we do at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and specifically reminded us not to forget the faith of our forebears.

   I appreciated that reminder because it is the faith element in the Anabaptist story that makes our work most compelling and important to me. I do enjoy the historical and ethnic elements of our work as well. The ethnic food we serve in the Livery Barn Restaurant is always a treat. I enjoy the old houses, barns, schools and churches, as well as the old tools and farm implements. So many of these things remind me of my youth, and despite all the hardships we experienced, these memories are by-and-large positive ones. But were it not for the profound and courageous faith stories that accompany the tangible things and are in fact the foundation for our history, I would find our work much less significant.

   To remind ourselves of the faith movement that initiated “Mennonite” faith, we should review some of the key elements adopted by the original Anabaptist reformers who eventually formed the Amish, Hutterite, and Mennonite sub-groups.

   As the name “Anabaptist” would suggest, the matter of baptism is a key defining element of that faith movement. The Anabaptist reformers of the 16th century believed that a Christian should make a personal request for baptism based on one’s faith in, and commitment to following, the teachings of Jesus. The practice of that day was infant baptism, enforced by both church and government. So this created some significant conflict, even persecution, for these radical reformers.

   The separation of church and state became another key tenet of this early faith movement. In a time when church and state enjoyed joint authority in society, they held to the belief that governments should not have authority over matters of faith and conscience.

   The early Anabaptists were also pacifists. Based on the life and teachings of Jesus, it was their belief that Christians should deal with conflict in non-violent ways, as retaliation and revenge did not align with His exemplary life.

   The reformers promoted what is often referred to as “the priesthood of all believers.” This tenet of Anabaptist faith states that all believers have equal access to God. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no longer another intermediary required in one’s relationship and communication with God. Therefore, these radical reformers organized themselves into congregations where members were involved in the teaching and leadership of the church. Leadership hierarchies had no place in these groups.

   These early elements of Anabaptist faith still exist in varying degrees in our current Mennonite faith groups. Many of our forebears paid a very high price in defending these beliefs. It is important to remind ourselves of their courage and tenacity again and again, so that we will continue to be inspired to teach that faith and courage to future generations.

Calendar of Events

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

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

- August 10 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks

Village News

VN 2016 06 30 Agnes Fast and siblings

Agnes (Fast) Anderson, in carriage to the left, and siblings, unknown date. Photo courtesy of Preservings magazine.

   As you might have heard, we opened our new exhibit, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, on Monday, June 13th in the Gerhard Ens Gallery. This exhibit provides nuance to the stories we tell in the Village. We're going "beyond" the way we usually talk about Mennonite women in history by focusing on the women who, by choice or by circumstance, went "beyond tradition." These women influenced immigration and settlement, became the heads of their families in times of need, had careers when that wasn't something most Mennonite women did, and sought a larger role in the church when women weren't allowed in leadership positions. We also wanted to include the stories of Mennonite women who never married.

   When Curator Andrea Dyck and I were planning this exhibit, we knew that we would not be able to talk about everyone we wanted to - either we weren't able to find suitable photos (or, if we could find them, they weren’t a high enough resolution to include on our panels), we didn't have any artifacts belonging to these women, or we simply didn't have enough information about them. Once we opened the exhibit, we were delighted and honoured that it has prompted people to tell us about extraordinary women in their own families whom we might have included in our exhibit, if only we had known about them.

   We don't want these stories to stop with us. We want other people to hear them as well. To make this possible, we are developing an exhibit that we hope you, our visitors, will help us create! It's very easy: when you visit Beyond Tradition, we invite you to write a woman's story on a card and pin it to the exhibit board in the gallery. It's as simple as that. The woman you write about doesn't even have to be Mennonite! Our objective is to collect and share stories of women who have lived remarkable lives, so if you have a newspaper clipping you want to include, or a photograph you want to share, please do feel free to post them. (Just don't give us an original, as we can't guarantee you'll get it back.)

   As an example of a story that we were unable to include in our interpretive panels but which will be included in this portion of the exhibit, let me close by telling you the story of Agnes Fast Anderson (1883-1977).

   Agnes Fast Anderson grew up in Steinbach. She was taking her nurse's training in Minneapolis when she came home for a visit, and stayed to care for the victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Because there was neither doctor nor hospital at the time, Agnes cared for her patients in the school, which had been converted into a makeshift hospital. One by one her helpers fell sick, though only one of her patients succumbed to the flu. Agnes herself did not fall ill until the worst of the epidemic was over. Die Steinbach Post, when reporting on the epidemic on December 4, 1918, wrote of Agnes and her work at the hospital: “There are only three patients left in the hospital and Agnes Fast is tending to them and they are recovering rapidly under her care, as all the rest have been doing as Miss Fast proves to be an able nurse and has done a great and noble deed to the village of Steinbach.”

   Do you know of any extraordinary women we should be including in our exhibit? Drop by the Gerhard Ens Gallery or find us on Facebook to let us know!

Calendar of Events

- July 1 – Steinbach’s Canada Day festivities (free admission)- 10:00 to 6:00

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

Village News

Waffles & Vanilla Sauce

   Our Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Auxiliary has made MHV waffles and vanilla sauce popular here at the museum. This rare treat is typically served only on our festival days, such as Canada Day, Pioneer Days, and Fall on the Farm. So there are relatively few opportunities to enjoy them.

   When you visit the kitchen in the house attached to the Chortitz Housebarn at MHV, you will see a waffle iron permanently mounted in the stove top. This leads one to believe that waffles were likely a staple menu item at the turn of the previous century.

   Their appeal has obviously continued. When my mother made waffles, they were the main course for our meal. We would eat them with a variety of toppings, such as syrup or fruit preserves. Bacon or sausage were normally served on the side, and then we would enjoy the last waffle with ice-cream for dessert. I suspect the ice-cream was a convenient substitute for the traditional vanilla sauce.

   The waffle iron in our Chortitz house makes the waffle in a configuration of five hearts joined in the centre. The waffles we make at MHV during our festivals are the same shape but somewhat larger. They are baked over a fire, as was done in earlier times when homes didn’t necessarily have electricity to energize an electric appliance.

   It seems our MHV waffles and vanilla sauce have also become quite popular at our local street festival, Summer in the City. Each year we pack up our waffle ovens, a fridge, a freezer, and many other supplies and utensils to bake waffles on the street for three days. Dozens of volunteers join in to bake the waffles and serve our customers. Our waffle booth was exceptionally busy for a good part of last weekend. As everybody got a freshly baked waffle, people sometimes waited up to 30 minutes when the lines were long. Some people treated themselves to a waffle every day of the festival. One individual arrived early on Friday morning during an unforeseen delay and was still willing to wait 2½ hours for his waffle.

   To make our waffles more interesting, we offered a variety of toppings: strawberries, blueberries, ice-cream, and of course the traditional vanilla sauce. When the festival ended on Sunday, we had sold 1,037 waffles, some with creative combinations of these toppings.

   It might seem strange for a museum to be operating a concession stand at a street festival, as our primary purpose is to collect and preserve artifacts, and interpret the stories that come with those artifacts. However, the tourism trade, in which we have one foot firmly planted, would call our endeavour “experiential tourism.” People tend to find their tourism experiences more engaging through hands-on participation in an activity, as opposed to simply reading or viewing information.

   This is what our Livery Barn Restaurant seeks to do daily between May 1 and September 30 by serving ethnic cuisine. This is why we have school children try their hand at washing clothes on a washboard or baking a batch of Schnetje in our hands-on Education Program.

   Additionally, our waffle booth has become a great opportunity for us to contribute to Steinbach’s street festival and gain visibility in the community, while also generating some income for MHV.

   If you missed your opportunity for a waffle at Summer in the City, be sure to visit MHV on one of our upcoming festival days:  Canada Day, Pioneer Days, or Fall on the Farm. Don’t wait until next year’s street festival!

Calendar of Events

- July 1 – Steinbach’s Canada Day festivities (free admission)- 10:00 to 6:00

- July 11-15 – Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 5-8

- July 29–August 1 – Pioneer Days - 10:00-6:00 daily

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

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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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