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Heritage Festival: A Celebration of Pioneer Spirit

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Perham, 56573

Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

With a nearly all-new board in place, the East Otter Tail County Historical Society is taking an all-new approach to its signature annual event.

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The Pioneer Festival, held at the rustic "Pioneer Grounds" park for nearly 40 years, will now be promoted as "Heritage Festival: A Celebration of the Pioneer Spirit." Many of the features of the past will continue, along with a wide range of new additions, when the festival takes place August 16-17.

"Our goal is to make it more inclusive to the community," said Steph Ellingson, EOT Historical Society board member. "By using the word 'heritage,' we feel it expands and broadens the appeal."

Church traditions, and also the area's rich resort-travel-tourism history, are some of the themes that the board would like to expand with the new Heritage Festival.

The "heritage" focus also could open the gates to ethnic food, crafts and activities--reflecting East Otter Tail's Polish, German and Finnish history.

The Pioneer tradition will definitely continue, particularly with the longtime collaboration between the Society and the "Lake Country Mountaineers," which will again host its Blackpowder Rendezvous August 15-17. The Mountaineer encampment is a journey back in time, with period costume, camping, games, and gun and bow shoots.

"The grounds really are beautiful, and it would be great if the community and the public enjoyed them more often," said Jean Palashewski, Society board member.

"We're trying to promote the grounds more than we have. We'd like the public to utilize the site more," said Society President Steve Polum, who is also unofficial buildings and grounds manager.

This summer, there have been about two to three events per month on the grounds--such as weddings and family reunions. A concert and dance with the Unbelievable Uglies was hosted June 28.

"The grounds are almost like a hidden treasure in the community," said board member Ellingson. "There are local folks that are not aware of the facilities...and many of the people who come to the lakes don't know it is there."

Polum doesn't view the Pioneer Grounds as a facility that competes with other facilities, such as the Mulligan's banquet room or the Thumper Pond conference facilities. The Pioneer Grounds, with the 1923-built "Grandview Heights Lodge" ballroom, is a more rustic alternative for family and group events, noted Polum.

Also on the grounds is one of the quaint stone cabins that were moved from a long-defunct resort on the edge of Perham. The Westby House was moved from Maplewood State Park.

The next goal is to move the old School District 125 school house, in Corliss Township, from its location near St. John's Lutheran Church to the Pioneer Grounds.

Another goal is to repair the roof on the Grandview ballroom.

A number of new events are planned this year at the two-day, August 16-17, Heritage Festival.

Among them:

----A showing and presentation on the "Underground Railroad Quilt"

----Perham Area Cruisers Car Show

----Bluegrass concert

----Beer garden, on the south side of the ballroom

----Pie and ice cream social and free admission to the festival on Sunday

----Polka concert and dance, 2-5 p.m. on Sunday.

Everybody is also invited to pose for a panoramic 'town photo' for the East Otter Tail historical record.

A "photo for the ages" will be taken August 17 at the Pioneer Grounds north of Perham.

The "community photo," which is being organized by the East Otter Tail Historical Society, is inspired by those classic, panoramic images of a century ago--with the entire community gathered together in the town square.

Families, organizations and businesses are all invited to participate, at 2 p.m. sharp, August 17, at the Pioneer Grounds.

Perham's Photo Magic will professionally photograph the panoramic scene, which will become part of the permanent historical record for Otter Tail County. Photos will be available for order from Photo Magic.

The photo shoot is part of the Pioneer Village Heritage Festival August 16-17.

Admission to the Pioneer Grounds will be free all day on Sunday, so everybody--all ages--is invited to enjoy the festival and participate in the photo event.

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