Festival celebrates harvest

FAIRMONT – Harvest is a time of hard work and celebration, and Heritage Acres in Fairmont manages to combine both with its annual Fall Festival.

“Even with the weather, we have a good turnout,” said John Hilgendorf of Heritage Acres on Sunday. “We had over 300 come out for dinner.”

Located on the west side of town, Heritage Acres is an agricultural interpretive center that was formed in 1976, according to its website heritageacresmn.org, when its founders realized “how quickly an historic way of life was disappearing from the landscape.”

On Sunday, people gathered to watch the harvest of corn and soybeans, using both old-time and modern equipment.

“They might have some trouble with the beans,” Hilgendorf said. “With the rain, the beans didn’t dry out like they should.”

Some of the smaller equipment on site was out for demonstration. Bruce Borntrager had several gas-powered corn grinders and shellers that were used throughout the day.

“This one’s cracking and drying the corn,” he said as he used a corn grinder. “We’re making chicken feed.”

Tom Egan was demonstrating and letting the children experiment with an apple press, which made several gallons of cider on Sunday.

“What happens when we put all these in at once?” he asked Ava Terfehr as he dumped several apples from a nearby box into the press.

The answer stepped up to the wheel when Terfehr got a helping hand with the equipment from her father.

“It’s amazing what all they have out here,” said Velma Schaal, who was attending the Heritage Acres event for the first time. “They’re even plowing with horses. I’ve never been out here when they’ve had something going on.”

Dark clouds and cold winds kept threatening the festival throughout the day, but the parking areas remained full for most of the afternoon.

“We have all the buildings open,” Hilgendorf said. “There’s also the train rides for the kids.”

The buildings proved to be a popular place to get out of the wind Sunday. The old schoolhouse bell was ringing constantly, while people gathered to learn how to do-si-do at a square-dance demonstration from the Lake Promenaders.

“I think it’s nice publicity for Heritage Acres, because it’s all volunteer,” said Mildred Brodt, who was taking on her role as a teacher at the schoolhouse. “The more people come out and learn about what we do out here, the more likely we’ll be able to invest and repair.”