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Pioneer Grounds officially under new ownership

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Twenty-five rustic park-like acres on the edge of Perham, including historic buildings and artifacts, has come under new leadership.

The nonprofit History and Cultural Association of East Otter Tail County officially took over management of the Pioneer Grounds this week in hopes of regenerating community interest in the park.

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The association, which also oversees the History Museum of East Otter Tail County and In Their Own Words (ITOW) Veteran’s Museum, is inviting interested parties to participate in an assessment and revitalization of the 44-year-old Pioneer Festival, which has seen a decline in recent years.

According to a press release, the grounds were previously managed by the East Otter Tail County Historical Society. Up until recent years, the History and Cultural Association of East Otter Tail County served as an umbrella agency for the society. About two years ago, the society failed to keep up with required filings, and its nonprofit standing was subsequently revoked by the Minnesota Secretary of State.

The East Otter Tail County Historical Society will go through a change, but it will not go away.

“We registered the name under the History and Cultural Association of East Otter Tail County so that the good work of the society can continue,” said Darla Ellingson, CEO of the association, in the release. “We are working with the group’s treasurer on transfer of previously collected deposits for the Pioneer Grounds. Current and future donations to the society are being managed by the association.”

Artifact collection and cataloging will continue to be operated from the History Museum. Coordination of the Pioneer Grounds for those wishing to rent the grounds will be operated from the ITOW building. The Pioneer Grounds has indoor and outdoor venues for rent on a first-come first-served basis for weddings, reunions and other events.

“One of our board members, Julie Listrom, agreed to resign from the board to accept a part-time position coordinating rental of the grounds, as well as ITOW rental spaces,” said Ellingson. “If you previously submitted a deposit, please contact Julie right away to make sure we have you on the schedule.”

The grounds are also home to the long-standing Pioneer Festival, which has seen a decline in recent years. The association applied for and recently received a $3,000 grant from Lakes Region Arts Council in order to assess the festival, gain community and artist input, and work toward a revitalized festival in 2015.

“Anyone that has an interest in the Pioneer Grounds or has ideas for the festival is invited to join us on Saturday, April 26 at 10 a.m. on the grounds,” said Ellingson. “We will have a tour, take notes, and discuss ideas and plans for the grounds and future festivals.” 

Ellingson added that there will be more opportunities for input, but this will be the first chance for a behind-the-scenes review of the resources. Artists, musicians, theatrical performers and volunteers who are interested in participating in future festivals are encouraged to contact the association.

The association plans to hold a Pioneer Festival this summer, providing an entertaining opportunity for the community to show its support for preserving this cultural landmark.

“Efforts will be focused on successful elements of the past, including threshing events, music, art, and a beer garden, as well as coordinating scheduling with activities of the neighboring Lakes Country Mountaineers Black Powder Club,” said Ellingson. “We’ll add a few new surprises, with events concentrated around Aug. 16.”

The festival will have free admission, other than a nominal fee for the evening concert and dance.

For more information, contact Julie Listrom at hacainfoeotc@gmail.com or call 346-7678 Tuesday through Friday afternoons. Mail should be directed to 230 1st Avenue N, Perham, MN 56573. A Pioneer Grounds calendar should be online within a month. 

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