Guest Author

Danielle Unett at the Blumenhof site.

For the next 6 weeks this blog with be priveledged to have a guest author. Danielle Unett is going into her fourth year of studies at the University of Winnipeg, with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Classical Studies. She is participating in her second archaeological dig at the site of the former village of Blumenhof this summer through the Mennonite Heritage Village. Danielle will be submitting daily blogs on the dig which is currently underway.

This year's excavation is being conducted as a University of Winnipeg field studies class under the direction of our Senior Curator, Roland Sawatzky, and Val McKinley from the Department of Anthropology at the U of W. We are delighted to have this opportunity to partner with the university in this ongoing archeological research.

Welcome to the blog, Danielle.

Tractor Trek Successful but Cancelled

Off to Blumenort

A great lunch at LaBroquerie

I am pleased to report that despite the fact that we had to cancel much of the Trek due to the thunder showers, we did enjoy some considerable successes.

The first success was breakfast. The Livery Barn Restaurant provided an energy filled breakfast of “jreeve,” scrambled eggs, hash-browns, and home-made brown bread with jam. At 9:45 we gathered for announcements, a prayer for safety and a song to send us on our way. Joel Klassen, an employee of Eden, wrote event-appropriate words to the tune of Gene Autry’s song, “Back in the Saddle Again.” Gerry Sapinsky, an MHV volunteer, sang the song, “Back on my Tractor Again.”

We left for Blumenort at 10:00 with a view to remaining on the east side of a north-bound weather system. As we approached Blumenort it became obvious that we would not likely avoid the storm. And we didn’t. Shortly after leaving Blumenort the electrical storm was upon us and a decision was made to terminate the trek and head back to MHV. A number of drivers took shelter along the way. The rest braved the elements and arrived back at MHV wet and covered with sand. The west wind ensured that all drivers of these south-bound tractors were doused by the sand and water being raised by the tractor tires.

After some clean-up the group made their way to the La Broquerie Park for a great lunch and some silent auction prizes. Despite the cold damp conditions, we were received warmly and well fed by this community.

Supper was served in the Village Centre Auditorium at 5:30. By now everyone had found dry clothes and some had even enjoyed a nap in the afternoon. The food, the stories around the tables, the entertainment by Matt Zimmerman and Maria, and the prizes all combined to create a very enjoyable evening. Al Hamm, committee chair, reported that 55 drivers took up the challenge raising $39,000. This compares to last year’s trek of 47 drivers and $34,500. The Trek has grown each year and we hope to see continued growth next year.

Building Restoration Update

Many readers of this column are aware that a number of local individuals and businesses have donated / pledged a total of $90,000 toward the restoration of our buildings, many of which are in need of repairs and/or a paint job. Here is a brief update on the progress of these projects.

We have a new ceramic-tile floor in the Livery Barn Restaurant’s kitchen and a newly painted floor in the Short-Order Booth. The Livery Barn Restaurant has a beautiful new coat of paint. The General Store has some new windows and a lot of new siding. The painters have begun scraping the building and will be applying paint shortly. We are currently inviting bids for the painting of the windmill and the Village Centre, including the Auditorium. If there are still funds available after these projects are done, we will address the Steamer Shelter, the Lichtenau Church and the Barkfield School.

Newly Painted Livery Barn Restaurant

MHV Benefits from Community Grants

For some time we have sensed a need to renew the Mennonite Heritage Village website ( As with many other MHV projects, a lack of available funds had been keeping this project on the back burner. This year we decided to raise its priority by applying for a number of grants to fund the project and then proceeding immediately with the project in the hope that the grantors would eventually decide in our favour.

Last week we were pleased to receive word that two grants have now been approved for our website renewal. One of the grants has been awarded to MHV by Loewen through the Employee Foundation of the VKR Group. Loewen is one of a group of companies owned by VKR in Denmark. For decades, the Loewen family have been significant supporters of Mennonite Heritage Village through their vision, leadership and financial support. While they no longer own the company, it is gratifying to see that the new owners espouse similar values to the ones modeled by the Loewens.

The second grant comes to us from the Steinbach Community Foundation Inc. This foundation seeks to provide financial assistance to a variety of community service organizations including those which are active in areas of the arts, culture and education. We are grateful for this vote of confidence from this local organization. Work on the website is underway, and we’re looking forward to unveiling our renewed web presence.

Did You Experience Spring on the Farm?

Abe and his tractor on the ballance beams.

This is how you separate the cream from the milk.

On Monday we celebrated our annual Spring on the Farm festival in collaboration with the Southeast Implement Collectors’ annual Tractor Show. The day began with a Jreewe (cracklings) breakfast for the exhibitors and other interested guests. Throughout the events that followed, festival attendance was good and the weather cooperated until a light drizzle arrived at about 4:00.

As reported previously, our MHV theme for 2012 is A Child’s World: From Slate to Tablet. Given this specific focus on children, our goal has been to introduce a number of new activities at MHV geared for the younger set. All our festivals this summer will feature a Children’s Tent in which we will feature children’s entertainers and activities. At Monday’s event, Mr. Ken and Mr. Ben were the featured entertainers. The children, and even some parents, found their act quite engaging. We also initiated a children’s parade, inviting youngsters to drive their toy tractors, trucks, ATVs and the like. As part of the formal tractor games, children were given the opportunity to do a “tug-of-war” with a couple of small garden tractors. These latter activities were special additions to an already children-focused festival day.

Our youngest tractor driver

One of the highlights of the day was Steam Club ‘71’s plowing demonstration, using their steam engine and a recently restored six-bottom John Deere platform plow. Despite some concerns that the field might be too wet, the steamer operators decided to try it. A significant crowd of guests followed the steamer to the field to observe this unique demonstration. It was interesting to note that the steamer needed to stop in mid-field for about 15 minutes to build up more steam pressure before proceeding.

In the forenoon, interested guests enjoyed a CD launch featuring Ron Plett and Koop en Bua in Dietschlaund. In the afternoon, Dr. Dennis Giesbrecht came to read from his recently released book, Pete and Tillie. At 3:00 PM The Rock Ridge Pickers took the stage under the large white tent and provided their audience with a solid entertainment package.

We are thankful for the day’s comfortable weather, our faithful volunteers, a good group of sponsors, and the many visitors who chose MHV as their destination this past Victoria Day.

"Mennonite Girls Can Cook" Aprons

Tina Dyck models one of the new aprons for her friends.

In the last year our Gift Shop has sold hundreds of copies of the book, Mennonite Girls Can Cook. This year the MHV Auxiliary has embarked on a project of making and selling aprons patterned after the ones pictured in the book. These aprons are available in the MHV Gift Shop for $29.95.

Spring on the Farm

On Monday, May 21, we will once again partner with the Southeast Implement Collectors in presenting our annual Spring on the Farm and Tractor Show. The gates will open to the public at 10:00 AM and remain open until 5:00 PM. Anyone with an interest in vintage tractors will find this festival particularly interesting. Up to 100 tractors will line the Village Main Street. A variety of tractor games will test the skills of courageous drivers.

The afternoon will begin with a children’s toy-tractor parade. We are encouraging children ages 10 and under who have pedal or battery-powered tractors or mini-ATVs to bring their machines and drive in the children’s parade. The children’s parade will be followed by the vintage tractor parade. Weather permitting, the steamer will lead the tractors to the field for a plowing demonstration. One of our old platform plows was restored during the winter and will be tested behind the steamer. We hope the weather will cooperate.

The Livery Barn Restaurant will be serving its annual “Jreewe” breakfast on May 21 from 7:00-9:30 AM. Come start the day with a breakfast from the past.

Restored John Deere Platform Plow

MHV Education Program

May and June are the months when school field trips seem to be most common, especially to an outdoor venue like Mennonite Heritage Village. So this is the season when our education program kicks into high gear. Every year we host over 4,000 students, as well as their teachers and helpers. Kim Plett has returned to MHV to coordinate this program, and Devon Guenther has joined our team to assist her. These two women will administer the program, supported by many volunteers who will assume the role of interpreter in selected locations throughout the Village.

The students will be introduced to various aspects of pioneer life. They will spend time learning about one-room country schools, the windmill, the role of the church in the community, the Semlin and various other components of Mennonite life 100 years ago. They will get to taste Schnetje and, in some cases, may even have the hands-on experience of baking them.

Depending on the package their school has purchased, they will likely also enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride. We are grateful to Birds Hill Park Ranch for again loaning us a team of horses to provide this part of the program. Normally the children also have free time in the afternoon, some of which is spent in the General Store, stocking up on candy for the long bus ride home.

Sunday "Faspa"

One of the traditions of the Russian Mennonites is a light, late-afternoon Sunday meal known as faspa. It usually consists of buns, cheese, jam, cake or cookies, and coffee. Sometimes cold cuts of meat are included as well. The MHV Auxiliary will be serving their annual “Sunday Faspa” on Sunday, May 6, at 2:30 PM in the Village Centre Auditorium. Entertainment will include presentations by our Senior Curator, Roland Sawatzky, and Val McKinley (University of Winnipeg) about the former village of Blumenhof and the findings from recent archeological digs at that site. There will also be special music by “The Reimer6.” Admission is $10.00 per person, and tickets are available at the door at MHV.

The Village is Open for Business

As of May 1, Mennonite Heritage Village is again fully open for business. The heritage buildings in the Village and our Livery Barn Restaurant are now welcoming visitors for the summer season. The farm animals are arriving and will enjoy the attention they will receive from our guests.

In May and June the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sundays from noon to 5:00 PM. The Livery Barn Restaurant is open from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Saturday and 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM Sundays. Beginning May 13, the restaurant will again offer its famous Sunday Buffet from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM. Visitors coming exclusively to enjoy a meal or a snack at the LBR are not required to pay admission to the Village.

We encourage local residents to purchase an MHV membership, which includes a season’s pass to the Village. This allows an unlimited number of visits to the museum, including all our Festival Events. Annual individual memberships sell for $40, and family memberships sell for $80. A family includes parents and their dependent children under the age of 18.

For those who choose not to purchase a membership, daily admission rates are as follows: $10 for adults, $8.00 for students (ages 13–22) and seniors (age 65 and up), $4.00 for children ages 6–12. Children ages 5 and under get in free. A daily family pass can be purchased for $30.

MHV is a great place to bring guests from out of town. Not only does it effectively exhibit our pioneer heritage, it also provides both children and adults a large and entertaining outdoor park. Hours of exploration of the buildings, farmyard and machinery will provide an excellent outlet for pent-up energy.

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