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A day at the museum: Event brings generations together

Becker County Museum employee Margie Rousu helped hand out a free pansy -- courtesy of Bergen's -- mainly to kids who could then take the flower home and plant it during Sunday's Museum Day festivities. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers)1 / 5
Kids at Becker County's Museum Day got a chance to crank homemade ice cream, but unfortunately the ice cream maker broke before the ice cream could be eaten Sunday. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers2 / 5
Charles Grose offered horse and wagon rides to the public with Wally Rodewald (not pictured) and his horses and wagons. Rodewald also had several other trailers at the museum for people to see. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers)3 / 5
Cheryl Rotz demonstrated how chair caning is done during Sunday's Museum Day festivities at the Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers)4 / 5
Judy Zurn demonstrated how to make rag rugs on the loom in the basement of the Becker County Historical Museum during Sunday's festivities. (Pippi Mayfield/DL Newspapers)5 / 5

May 2012 is an historic month for the state of Minnesota: For the first time this year, Gov. Mark Dayton has designated May as Minnesota Museum Month.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society, the state has more than 600 museums within its borders -- including the Becker County Historical Society Museum, located at 814 Summit Ave. in Detroit Lakes.

"We have twice the average number of museums per capita as any other state in the nation," said Amy Degerstrom, executive director of the local museum.

"This (Museum Month) is a way of reminding folks abut their local museums and the value they bring to their community, with the stories they keep and create for their citizens."

The Becker County Museum got into the spirit of the statewide celebration this past Sunday, hosting its second annual International Museum Day.

"I think it's a good way to celebrate the history and culture in our own backyard," Degerstrom added. "It reminds folks that history can be fun."

About 200 people showed up to celebrate the event, enjoying demonstrations in chair caning and loom weaving; listening to live music from pianists Holly Heisserer and Solveig Kitchell as well as swing, polka and other 1940s-era music from the 42nd Street Band; and taking part in horse-drawn wagon rides, old-fashioned kids' games and of course, touring the museum's exhibits.

"It was really good," Degerstrom said of the event. "The day was kind of cold to start out, but it got warmer so we were able to be outside more, which was nice."

Outdoor activities included an old-fashioned ice cream making demonstration, sidewalk chalk art and old-fashioned kids' games like jacks and marbles. In addition, Wally and Charlotte Rodewald offered horse-drawn wagon rides throughout the afternoon.

The overall attendance was roughly the equivalent of last year's inaugural event, Degerstrom said. "We're going to do it again next year," she added.

There are several more museum events coming up this month, starting with a couple of activities being planned in conjunction with Detroit Lakes' Legacy Destination Weekend celebration, May 17-19.

On each day, May 17, 18 and 19, the museum will be offering Historic Downtown Walking Tours starting at 1 p.m. The tours will leave from the Detroit Lakes School Administration Building on Lake Avenue, with each slated to last between 45 minutes to an hour.

"There's no cost, but free will donations will be accepted," Degerstrom said.

Then on Saturday, May 19, from 10 a.m. to noon, the museum will host a "Last Chance Viewing Party" for the "Minnesota Homefront" traveling exhibit, which closes at the end of the day.

From 10 a.m. to noon, museum visitors can stroll through the traveling exhibit from the Minnesota Historical Society, which shows how Minnesotans worked and sacrificed to do their part on the homefront during World War II.

In addition, they will be able to listen to jukebox music from that era and learn about such WW II activities as scrap metal drives and food rationing -- as well as the fate of the museum's Civil War cannon, which at one time was believed to have been recycled through one of the above-mentioned scrap drives.

There will also be a "ration recipe tasting" activity, where visitors can sample foods made from WW II-style rations and vote on their favorites. Ballots used for voting on the recipe contest will also be entered into door prize drawings to be held during the event, Degerstrom said.

Later this month, on Tuesday, May 22, the Detroit Lakes Library will host a book signing and program for the book "Images of America: Detroit Lakes," which was compiled by Degerstrom and museum assistant Kelsey Opsahl and published earlier this spring by Arcadia Publishing. The event begins at 2 p.m.

Upcoming exhibits at the museum this summer will include "Holmes Spun History," a look at DL's Historic Holmes Theatre and its beginnings as a public school building back in the late 1800s.

This exhibit, which was compiled and put together by history students at the Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center (located on the third floor of the theater building) will be on display at the museum from June through August, before moving to its permanent home at the theater.

A sneak preview of the exhibit was offered during this weekend's two performances of the musical "Holmes Spun Theatre 2" at the Holmes Theatre, and local residents will also get a chance to view it during the annual Parkfest celebration at the Detroit Lakes City Park & Pavilion, set for Thursday, May 17 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Also this summer, the museum will host two state award-winning exhibits compiled by Lake Park-Audubon students as part of that school's History Day project, Degerstrom said.

For more information about upcoming museum events and exhibits, contact Degerstrom at 218-847-2938 or visit the museum's website,

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454