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Farming of Yesteryear to highlight traditional farming methods

KIESTER — Lime Creek Lutheran Church from Emmons and a one-room school house from Eden Township in Winnebago County are just a couple of sites to be seen at the Farming of Yesteryear Festival outside of Kiester this weekend.

The festival is sponsored by the nonprofit Gopher-Hawkeye Power Association, a collective gathering of smaller tractor hobby groups from southern Minnesota and northern Iowa that have merged into a larger entity.

According to Keith Kyle, the group’s secretary, the festival is the nonprofit organization’s major fundraiser of the year and helps it maintain a property that is home to buildings including a sawmill, a country store, summer kitchen and farmhouse, among other facilities.

The structures are there to help preserve the memories of rural agricultural communities and familiarize the next generation with the farming traditions of the past. Several other exhibit and demonstration areas can be found outside during the event, as well.

According to Gopher-Hawkeye Power Association co-President Bryan Linder, this includes threshing demonstrations with oats that have been cut and bundled in advance. These bundles are comprised of a grouping of about 20 plants that are tied together with a thin piece of twine and left out in the field to dry out. Loads of the bundles will be brought to a demonstration area, where they will be tossed into a threshing machine powered by a steam engine. The threshing process will then separate the oats from the straw.

Sorghum pressing will also be done this year. The process consists of taking the plant, which resembles a cornstalk, cutting it down at the base and running it through a press that squeezes all the juice out of it.

“It’s basically very diluted sugar. You cook that down and make what’s called a sorghum molasses,” Linder said. “That’s what was used many years ago as a sweetener — instead of sugar.”

Kyle noted there will be demonstrations related to careers of the past as well.

While many think of blacksmiths as shoeing horses, it most often was not the case. While the iron workers would make shoes, it was up to a farrier to put the shoes the blacksmith made on the horse. A blacksmith’s job was much broader than many realize, he said.

“They were the manufacturers in the community,” he said, noting they made many useful items, including tools, door hinges and nails. Those who attend the festival will be able to witness this firsthand.

Not all the activities of the festival are centered around farming, though. Linder said the organization makes it a point to host events for the whole family.

Live musical guests are scheduled to play throughout the festival, including the Bee Kays, who play old and new country; Somethin’ Country, who will play at Saturday’s barn dance; Chris Von Arx, who plays classic country; and gospel and bluegrass group Homespun. Seating is limited, so those in attendance may want to bring their own chairs, according to Melissa Michaelis, who is in charge of the festival’s food, crafts and agricultural product vendors.

This year’s festival will feature a petting zoo and a state-sanctioned pedal pull and fun run for children, which Linder described more like a scavenger hunt than a race. Children will be able to get stamps for visiting different stations, which will make them eligible for prizes. The event is being done this year in memory of Jason Niebuhr of Wells, who died last month in a car accident.

Niebuhr, 39, was described as a faithful member of the Gopher-Hawkeye Power Association by Michaelis.

“He came religiously to our meetings,” she said.

Linder has many fond memories of Niebuhr, too. He noted Niebuhr volunteered throughout the weekend each year to help out whereever he could and to give rides on his 1946 B John Deere tractor. Linder noted the tractor had been fitted with a bus seat, which would allow someone to sit next to him and help guide him, as Niebuhr had lost his sight when he was 2. Since the tractor didn’t go too fast, Niebuhr could safely drive the tractor in the parade and often give people rides with someone telling him if he needed to turn a little to the left or right.

“He had more motivation than most sighted-men,” Linder said. “He’s gonna be missed.”

Gates at the Farming of Yesteryear festival will open at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The site is approximately 2 miles east and then 2 miles south of Kiester at 1736 600th Ave.

 

Schedule of events

Saturday

All day: Fun run scavenger hunt

9:30 a.m.: Bingo

11 a.m.: Storyteller Al Batt

1 p.m.: Parade

2 p.m.: The Bee Kays

2 p.m.: Horseshoe tournament, call 507-320-2928 to enter

5 p.m.: Soup supper

6 p.m.: Somethin’ Country barn dance

 

Sunday

7 a.m.: Church service

8-10 a.m.: Pancake breakfast

8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.: Fun run scavenger hunt

11 a.m.: Chris Von Arx

Noon: Kids state-sanctioned pedal pull

1:30 p.m.: Parade

After parade: Cribbage tournament

2:30 p.m. Homespun

4 p.m.: Raffle drawings