by Gary Dyck
I think all of us will be happy to move on from this year. Like a review for a poor Amazon product most of us would give it one star and say ‘Tried it. Don’t recommend it’. However, it is good to take time to review the year and grieve what needs to be grieved and be thankful for what we still have.
At the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), our first quarter was actually pretty good. The budget we had made in January even surpassed expectations. Schools were coming for our programming. Admission to our February Winter Carnival grew from 176 in 2019 to 507 in 2020. We had been awarded a grant to repair our Chortitz Housebarn and planning for our Spring Gala and MCC 100 Years Exhibit was well under way.
On March 13 we closed for eight weeks. It was disappointing, but we wanted to do our part for the community. On May 13 we were one of the first museums in Canada to reopen. We wanted our outdoor village to be available to those who needed to get out of the house. In the meantime, we learned how to do all things virtual. Our social media use expanded in those first weeks when everyone was at home. The Spring Gala, Manitoba Day and AGM were all done online for the first time ever. It didn’t take long for us to realize that digital meetings have their limits. Digital cannot replace onsite contact.
In June COVID-19 was still a threat, but we decided to go on with our Tractor Trek. It would be easy to keep the tractors distanced and the heritage tractor owners could use a good cause to bring them together. It ended up raising spirits and $18,000 for Eden Health Foundation and MHV.
The rest of the summer saw our major events of Canada Day and Pioneer Days replaced with Family Day events and Pioneer Demonstration Days every other Saturday. The stream of people was slow, but steady. Volunteers were happy to have more meaningful connections with the guests instead of doing crowd control. Visitors also found it special to have more time to talk with the interpreters.
Every Thursday evening, we hosted a new event called ‘Rhubarb Jam’ that featured live music from local musicians and delicious wings and nachos from our Livery Barn Restaurant. Each week the numbers grew until we were filled to the capacity allowed by COVID-19 regulations. It was great seeing people enjoy the village atmosphere in our Summer Pavilion near the windmill.
In October we had two events which were quite successful. Our ‘Farm to You’ fundraiser banquet had the option of 50 people in our auditorium with a catered meal and program. At the same time, an unlimited amount of people had meal kits delivered to their door by a 1949 Chevy and watched the livestream from the comfort of their home. Finally, before Manitoba hit Code Red, we hosted our annual Christmas Market. The local artisans were grateful to have at least one Christmas market to sell their precious wares and people of all ages came to check it out safely.
At MHV we have more plans for 2021. It will be a rough first quarter to 2021, but hopefully the following months improve steadily. Look forward to strolling our new peace garden and checking out our new exhibit for 2021: “Mennonites at War”.
Calendar of Events
Village Books & Gifts shop is open for curbside pickup until December 18 (call 204-326-9661 ext 221) or shop online 24/7. We have a great selection of books and unique Christmas gifts for all. Orders can be mailed or delivered locally. Visit our webstore today.
Curbside pick-up resumes Tuesday, January 5, 2021.