Shouts and Murmurs: Bright future for historical village
As I left the barn dance Saturday night, the cool night air and crisp starlit skies, along with the music wafting from the barn prodded my imagination, and I wondered how the Tonganoxie Community Historic Site would look if used for other purposes. For instance, what if it were transformed into a Christmas village during the holiday season.
It's easy to imagine an outdoor living nativity, a decorated fir tree glowing in the schoolhouse, carols and candles in the church, and jolly laughter coming from Santa's sleigh.
In the barn, the scent of spiced cider and freshly baked cinnamon rolls would mingle with evergreen boughs where booths could be set up for holiday shoppers.
Organizing such an event would require extensive work and planning. But it could be a draw for the community, as well as a fund-raiser for TCHS and other organizations that participated.
Perhaps in the years to come, programs like that will be feasible. But first, the community needs to learn what a great resource the site is for Tonganoxie.
To celebrate the opening of the site's museum, the TCHS invited the public to a barn dance on Saturday night.
Despite advance publicity, most of the four-dozen or so who attended were TCHS members and their relatives. George Coop-er, TCHS president, said he was disappointed that the organization's first barn dance, which was free of charge, was attended by so few.
The historic village includes the old one-room Honey Valley School and the Reno Methodist Church -- both of which were moved to the site and renovated. The newest "old" attraction at the site is the dairy barn recently converted to a museum and community room.
Ironically, it is the dairy barn, which reportedly at one point was considered for demolition, that now is the site's most versatile building.
While the school house and church are historic and nostalgic, for usage purposes they are fairly limited. The school is filled with museum-quality antique desks and other fixtures, and the main floor of the church has fixed pews.
The dairy barn houses a museum on the south side. And on the north side of the rustic barn is a large open room, which would likely hold several hundred people at a reception.
In addition to its regular open hours of 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the public this week will have another chance to visit the site. On Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., there will be a Halloween party and carnival. Sponsored by B&J Country Mart, the library and recreation commission, this event is free and open to the public.
Obviously, events such as this would not be happening were it not for the work of TCHS volunteers. Members are quick to point out that most of the labor -- which has included extensive remodeling of buildings -- has been done by people who are well past retirement age.
One wonders what more the TCHS will accomplish as its reputation for getting things done just keeps on growing and the public becomes more and more involved with the society's activities.
As I shut the car door on the crisp Saturday night air, the square dance music faded into memory, and I realized that for the historic site, it's likely the magic has just begun.