Nearly three years after it opened in April of 2011, the Willkommen Heritage and Preservation Society of NYA continues to be a fascinating resource for local residents and visitors alike.
The organization held its third annual meeting last month, and President LaVonne Kroells said things are generally going well with the effort to keep history alive in Norwood Young America.
“Everybody who volunteers here enjoys it. I wish I could spend more time here,” she said. “It’s fun when you have visitors in looking at things and you can explain things.”
Kroells related one recent episode when new residents of the Oak Grove Senior Residence came through the doors to learn more about their new town.
“One was from Bloomington and the other from Crystal, I believe. They wanted to know about their community. So I walked around and explained everything to them. They were just intrigued. So there’s one example of people moving into the community who wanted to learn about it,” she said.
Membership in the Society has grown from 37 last June to 60 at present, but Kroells said she still hopes to get the message out that membership does not include any requirement to volunteer time to the Society.
“Some people don’t really understand the member thing,” she said. “We don’t just want them to come and work — that’s not it at all. We want them to join the organization, we want them to come and visit. Yes, if they want to volunteer that would be great, because we’ve been operating off of a handful of people. Some might say, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about the city.’ Well, this is the perfect place to learn.”
Currently there are 10-12 volunteers who help set up displays and perform whatever functions are needed to keep the Society operating.
“We’re growing and maturing just because we’re getting more people in — still not as many as we’d like though,” said Kroells. “There are still some people who don’t know we’re here or that we exist.”
Last year the Society welcomed 677 visitors, and also took a big step by taking on the Heritage Tent display at Stiftungsfest. That display included eight historic century farms from the area, and also featured city housing developments and their histories as farms.
The heritage center also put together a display in honor of the Diedesfeld Band from Germany. The ensemble from Young America’s sister city has been a regular highlight of Stiftungsfest since 1985, and 2012 might have been the group’s last visit to Stiftungsfest.
Other displays during the year included “Winter Hobbies and Handicrafts,” “Antique Valentines,” and a feature on the Mason’s Humbolt Lodge that coincided with the city council’s efforts to have the now privately owned Lodge building either repaired or razed due to safety concerns.
In March, the Society helped the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th year by displaying items and allowing Girl Scouts to sell cookies at the heritage center.
A regular school display has evolved with the seasons, featuring the current sports and teams from years past, and homecoming royalty of 50 years ago were highlighted along with the 1983 Indianettes dance squad — Central’s only team to capture a state title.
The year closed with an indoor walking tour of eight historic homes in Norwood Young America and a look at how those homes are decorated for the holiday season.
In 2013, the Society is currently featuring a display on historic hats, and preparations are already underway for this year’s Stiftungsfest display on the various country schools that used to dot the landscape.
“[The board members are] taking a school and researching it. People are just amazed at all the country schools we’ve had around here,” said Kroells. “Everybody is kind of pitching in. It’s a group thing.”
A new endeavor is to honor each graduating class from Central High School on its 50th anniversary, so this year the Society will highlight the CHS class of 1963.
On the business side, Loris Kramer and Dave Elling were elected to full three-year board terms during the annual meeting after finishing their initial terms, and Jim Spille was elected for a second three-year term.
Other members of the board include Kroells, Dorothy Bohnen, Sharilyn Feltmann, Ruth Harms, Rosie Gutknecht, Mark Lagergren, RoseMary Braun.
The Society will hold a quarterly meeting on March 14, during which new officers will be chosen from those board members.
Kroells said the Society has been getting by on a meager budget, but producing the Stiftungsfest display has given the organization a welcome boost, and the budget report showed a positive balance at the end of the year.
“We’re surviving. We manage,” she said. “If we can keep this Stiftungsfest display that guarantees us some income every year, that’s going to help.”
The historical society is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. If anyone would like to schedule a tour outside of those hours, that can be done by calling (952) 467-4227.
Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]