Hermantown Historical Society sponsors sixth annual harvest fest

Six years ago, Hermantown Historical Society co-chairs Sandy Reinke and Bob Swanstrom decided to create a community fall festival like those celebrated in the city's younger years.

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Once again this year, Terri Hagenah-Wingness, art specialist in the Hermantown School District, will help youngsters paint baby pumpkins to take home. (Photo courtesy of Hermantown Historical Society)

Six years ago, Hermantown Historical Society co-chairs Sandy Reinke and Bob Swanstrom decided to create a community fall festival like those celebrated in the city's younger years.

"The Jackson Farmer's Club was the biggest organization of farmers in the county, and when I saw the photos of their Potato & Fall Festivals in the 1920s-1930s, I felt the need to organize a festival in the fall, in order to preserve, and share the history of the community," said Reinke. Her father left her 400 photos from his career as a Hermantown reporter for the Duluth Herald from 1930 to 1965.

Hermantown Historical Society's annual fundraiser, the Hermantown Harvest Fest, was born. The tradition will continue with new attractions and old favorites on Saturday, Sept. 6.

New attractions include Simek Farm's pumpkin maze for children, a petting farm, including pigeons, rabbits, chickens, ponies and the Hermantown Federal Credit Union mascot, Kirby the Kangaroo.

Pre-teen wood carvers are also new. Three young wood carvers, ages 10-12, will demonstrate carving and painting miniature totem poles, averaging three feet tall.


"They know enough to show other children the basics. It's actually safer to have kids [carve] big things because they have a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other hand, so they are farther away than if they were carving something smaller," said Nancy Borson, founder and secretary of Knotty Carvers of the North.

Old festival favorites include face painting, hay wagon rides, antique tractors, baby pumpkin painting, black smith demonstrations and the R. W. H. Slowline Railroad.

Swanstrom, chair of the Hermantown Harvest Fest, takes pride in inviting Northland communities like Barnum, Grand Rapids and Virginia.

"I really go out of my way to invite our neighbors in Northern Minnesota. I invite them to come and come they do," said Swanstrom who, with assistance, hung 550 posters throughout the Northland to promote the fundraiser.

Funds from Harvest Fest help the Historical Society pay $1,500 in operating expenses, buy materials to create displays and offer one free community program each year. Last year, the Society invited the public to learn about the Fires of 1918. This year's program is under review.

In the History Center, Duane Benoit will run his O Gauge Model Railroad, customized to reflect Hermantown businesses while festival goers visit vendors and view new Historical Society displays on the Fire of 1918, Hermantown early school staff, genealogy and new artifacts, including a collection of barber's blades.

The Historical Society got started when the Hermantown Federal Credit Union sought historical photos for its walls. Swanstrom, who has lived in and around Hermantown for over 50 years, asked around.

"I sat in more kitchens looking at more photo albums than you can believe and by the time we were done we had 200 photos," he said.


A committee chose 100 photos, which now decorate the credit union.

"At that point, Sandy Reinke said, 'Maybe we should start a historical society.' Nine years later, we're still going," said Swanstrom.

More than 80 food and craft vendors as well as four bands will round out the event. Returning musicians the Beaconaires will begin the day with upbeat polka tunes at 9 a.m. The female barbershop choir Ripple Effect will entertain at 10:45 a.m.

New this year, Hermantown's own Northeast Timberland Band will play a mix of bluegrass, folk and country rock at 11:45 a.m., followed by returning bluegrass/country musicians Jim Grussendorf and Company at 1 p.m. Just Friends from Esko will end the day with American folk songs at 2:45 p.m.

"The focus is on reconnecting with what people have done in the past. We're carrying on a tradition and it's been well received. We're feeling really good about expanding it," said Reinke.

The Hermantown Federal Credit Union is sponsoring the event with KLDJ-FM ("Kool") 101.7.

For more information, contact Bob Swanstrom, 729-8058, or Sandy Reinke, 624-3040.

WHAT: Hermantown Harvest Fest
WHERE: 5255 Maple Grove Rd. Off-street parking available.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6
COST: $5 for families, $2 per adult, $1 for ages 6-18, and children under five years will get in free.


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