Rural Heritage Tour gives visitors a glimpse into what early county life was like

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The Rural Heritage Tour was held on Saturday and Sunday at two historic locations in Switzerland County; and one of the great features was the operation of the historic hay press barn that has been reconstructed at the Thiebaud Family Farmstead Museum.

The event is also held at the Venoge site on State Road 129, and both sites provide visitors with a look back into daily life in the 1800s.

“We had a great time,” Martha Bladen said of the efforts at the Thiebaud Farmstead. “I was really pleased with how we had so many local people doing our demonstrations. I think that’s particularly exciting. Broadus Thompson and his brother, Angus, were giving blacksmithing demonstrations; our muzzleloaders, which were Jerry Wallin, Floyd Whitham, and Jake Rader, were popular. The nice thing about those is that Jerry had made the majority of the guns there. It’s just amazing that we have so many talented people in our area.”

Bladen said that those people were joined by others doing quilting and spinning and other tasks; making it a day filled with local talent.

And then there was the haypress demonstration.

“We were very pleased with the haypress demonstration on Saturday,” Bladen said. “We couldn’t do it on Sunday, because it was an Amish family who brought the horse, and it wasn’t something that they do on Sundays.”

Bladen said that the demonstration took about an hour, which is longer than it would have taken to make a bale when the haypress was in full operation.

“Figuring out how the machine worked and everything was a bit of a challenge,” she said, “But everything worked well; so we were happy to have that success under our belts.”

Bladen said that the crowds this year were about the same as they have been in the past; but added that the organizers may consider moving the event to a different weekend; because there were several competing events in the area, led by the Aurora Farmers Fair.

“It’s just too competitive,” Bladen said of this particular weekend. “From getting some of the reenactors that we want; there’s just so many other competing things. All things considered, we were happy with the attendance.”

Bladen said that one of the nice things about the people who did come is that they stayed a while and spent time watching the reenactors and also chatting and asking questions.

Another big feature at the Thiebaud Farmstead was the display of the Bicentennial Barn Quilt, which features a quilted representation of a local barn from each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Bladen said that organizers specially asked for the quilt this past weekend so it could be a part of the Heritage Tour, and it was a big success.

“It’s really making the rounds of the state,” she said. “I just got it packed up and it’s headed up to Delphi. We felt that it was a real privilege to have it here during this weekend.”

The Bicentennial Barn Quilt is a project of the Indiana Barn Foundation, in connection with Indiana Landmarks.

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Over at Venoge, Donna Weaver and others were also pleased with the weekend.

“We all had a good time, and our visitors stayed a long time and enjoyed themselves and they got to try out a lot of things,” Weaver said. “I personally wish that we would have had more people, because we could have handled maybe a third more, easily.”

Weaver said that the event gave organizers the chance to do some things that they hadn’t done before.

“A lot of the visitors used the apple press to make cider, which was fun for them; and several got to make rope, which they had never done before,” Weaver said. “We got to use the outdoor oven twice on both days. Mostly our visitors really seemed to enjoy themselves.”

Weaver said that with many similar events, particularly the bigger events, people just tend to walk past the exhibitors, but she was pleased with how much involvement there was between the reenactors and the visitors.

“We have the time to spend with them and talk about the details,” she said. “We can go as deep with them as we want to in history; or technique; or just go off on a tangent. Whatever the visitor wants to talk about. Sometimes they just want to talk about what they grew up with, especially when they get inside the house. There’s a lot of memories that come back about how things used to be or how their grandparents did things, or even how they did things as a child on a farm.”

Weaver said that Sunday was a little more pleasant because the weather was beautiful; but overall she was very happy with the overall event.

“Our goal isn’t just to preserve the house,” Weaver said, “But to recreate as best we can the way you lived in a house like that. What times were actually like. Yes, it’s charming on a weekend, but it’s hard work. It is hard work. That’s what we learn.”