Mennonite Heritage Village

Not Alone

Village News (August 1, 2019)
By Gary Dyck

“Happy Pioneer Days!” I shouted from my truck as I drove the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) parade float down Main Street, Steinbach. It was the kick-off of four full days for us to remember and celebrate those who went before us. We did it as a community and we did it welcoming the world. The staff, volunteers, and demonstrators did a terrific job and it was great to see all the visiting happening around our grounds.

There was a large group of students from Korea that had MHV as their last stop before flying back. There were several Chinese tourists that I was able to provide some insights for (yes, I did learn some Mandarin when I lived in China). My favorite interaction, however, was with an older Holdeman couple who sat near me in the Steamer Shelter, where our village Main Street opens up to the sawmill, windmill, and Blumenhof private school. She asked if they could eat their waffles there, as her husband was not very mobile. I answered by setting up a table for them.

For the next three to four hours they sat there taking in the sights. First it was the wheat chaff blowing out from the threshing machine, powered by the steamer; next it was the sails of the windmill gently creaking as they turned; then the sawmill, to their left, started up and they could see and hear it slicing through large logs from the forests of Lac Du Bonnet; next was a young man making manure bricks in the lawn in front of them with a contraption hooked up by a belt to an antique tractor; horses came and hooked up to our ‘merry-go-round’ and firewood was sawed. This whole time there were other horses drawing wagons full of families down Main Street, a buggy with tourists, and show horses prancing back and forth. I offered the elderly couple a shuttle ride to see the grounds, but they said this vantage point provided plenty for them to see. Sometimes you need to slow down and just soak it in. I wonder if it might be his last time here and they knew it?

As the new Executive Director, I was anxious that there would be major things I missed, that by some omission on my part the Pioneer Days festival would flop. That they would hand me the microphone to introduce our concert line-up, but no bands were there because I hadn’t invited them. I know many of you also have that feeling of inadequacy when taking on a new role or challenge in life.

I wonder if the founding fathers and mothers of our communities in Canada had the same feeling when they arrived in the 1870s? “What are we doing here?” some might have asked. They made mistakes, they had crop failures, and they had a personal loss. Yet they survived so we could thrive.

Sometimes we need to take the long perspective, not of hours and days, but of generations. Your parents, your great-great-grand-parents had the same feelings as you have. They made it and so can you. It is going to work out eventually. You are not inadequate. You come from a line of fearful, anxious, but courageous pioneers. You are not alone, nor was I alone in the Steamer Shelter that day. There is much to be thankful for and to learn from, which is a major reason why we host the Pioneer Days festival every year.

Despite two days of heat warnings, we had a total of 5070 visitors, which is up nearly 300 from 2018. Our next major event is ‘Fall on the Farm’, which will also feature many great events and the people who all help to bring the village and demonstrations to life. Come join me at the Steamer Shelter to soak it in

August 12-17,  10 am to 4 pm
Intermediate Camp – Sign up now! 
September 2,  9 am to 6 pm

Fall on the Farm
September 15, 9 am to 6 pm
Open Farm Day