museum day

 Les Vilda, a living history character from Wilber, uses his fingers to show Fillmore County students how many strands are braided into a single rope. 

FAIRMONT – Museum Day for Fillmore County fourth graders hit its 20-year milestone last May, celebrated the notable landmark … then just kept marching along this year.

Museum Day No. 21 brought fourth graders from all the county’s schools to the park and museum buildings for a lesson in the Three L’s - Listening, Learning and (of course) Lunch.

The subject matter was history, presented to the students by re-enactors and also via guided tours of Fillmore County Museum buildings.

Children not only watched how residents performed the many chores of life in Nebraska when it was the frontier, they got to dig in with their own hands, too.

Soap making. Butter churning. Milking an imaginary (thank goodness) cow while teetering on wobbly milk stools. Making rope. Using historical firearms. All that and more was available for the youngsters to hear about, see up close and touch.

Homesteader Doug Rung of Geneva talked with his young listeners about many aspects of life on the prairie.

“What do you see in this picture?” he asked, holding up a historic photo of a sod house.

The answer? Windows.

“How do you suppose the people who lived in this sod house got their windows home” over a great distance without breaking them? He then talked about how they accomplished the task, adding that a pioneer family with windows was certain to be well-to-do.

Wanda Marget and helpers showed the kids how to churn butter in small jars, then sent the tasty result of their work home for family members to taste.

Pat Koca walked students through the museum building at the north end of the park and, surrounded by hundreds of visual aids, provided insight about how people of that era made a life for themselves in a harsh environment.

Les Vilda, a historical re-enactor since 1980, taught students how rope is made, then guided them in making a length of strong rope for themselves.

Janet Stephenson, suitably decked out in pioneer lady attire to include the obligatory bonnet, taught group after group of bright faces how soap was made by hand.

Also the overall coordinator for the day, Stephenson said, “We’re trying to promote our museums” for one thing “and educate kids” about their own heritage for another.

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