Deep dive into Mountain Lake’s story

Forty-third annual Heritage Fair makes that possible


railroad depot and caboose
THE MOUNTAIN LAKE Depot and caboose welcomes folks to Heritage Village.


Mountain Lake’s Heritage Village – teamed with September’s Heritage Fair – makes immersing in an in-depth exploration into Mountain Lake’s story easy, accessible and engaging. Across 40 acres and through 25 buildings, things of which were a part of the “raising up” this area of the southwest Minnesota prairie into a city of William Mason’s naming and imagination are preserved. This is captured one building, one artifact, one piece of memorabilia – one ethnic food – at a time.

The 43rd-annual Utschtallung (which means “a gathering” in Low German) – or Heritage Fair, in an Englishified version of the name – was held today (Saturday, September 9), and brought forward to today those days of the past. Reminiscences that could be seen, heard, touched, smelled – and tasted. The heritage and culture of the Russian Mennonites and Russian Lutherans – and, of late, the Laotians – all who immigrated to this southwest Minnesota prairie in their own time and made it their home – was able to be found at every turn – and most significantly, a wide away of ethnic foods. These included (from the Russian Mennonite and Lutheran heritage) – crullers (topped with jam if you like), perischke (fruit tart), peppernuts, portzilke (deep-fried New Year’s cookie packed with raisins), zwiebach (two-story bun), schnetke (biscuit), verenike (cottage cheese pockets with cream gravy), rull coka or crullers (deep-fried pastry), moos (fruit soup), borscht (vegetable soup featuring cabbage), dark bread, sausage, sausage sandwich, ham, homemade ice cream and sunflower seeds. Also available to eat were American food faves like hot dogs, homemade ice cream, potato chips and pop. A bake sale featuring the ethnic specialties – along with ice cream pails and quarts of borscht – as take-home treats – were available in the Big Shed.

Fair goers had the opportunity to tour the 19 various buildings on the grounds, view an old-time telegraph in the Depot, check family research and genealogy information in the Welcome Center, watch the Old-Time Spelling Bee in the District Schoolhouse, be entertained by the Children’s Old-Fashioned Costume Parade on the Prairie as the group took its route down Memory Lane, inspect antique machinery and fire trucks, take a Mountain Lake Knowledge Match Test, learn about the southwest Minnesota prairie in the Prairie Interpretative Center, imagine what it was like to “ride the rails” as a railway worker by checking out the Great Northern Railway Caboose and view communication systems from over-the-years in the Minnesota Telephone Museum.

Elementary-age students were the participants in the Old-Time Spelling Bee in the Schoolhouse, as led by Schoolmarm Nordis Olson, assisted by Sheryl Fast (who on weekdays during the school year are elementary teachers at Mountain Lake Christian).

Heritage Village is home to Minnesota’s only authentic 1884 Mennonite Homestead (a connected house and barn – as they often were back in the day for chore convenience as well as winter warmth from the heat of the animals), and the Minnesota Telephone Museum.

To that end, history is meant to be chronicled and archived; reflected on and lessons learned. Such preservation is a gift from the past to the future. At Mountain Lake’s Heritage Village – especially on the second Saturday of September each year – can be found that wrapped present just waiting to be unwrapped – and a deep dive taken.

Following is a photo gallery from this year’s Utschtallung:


LONESOME RON IS “framed” performing outside the Prairie Interpretive Center at Heritage Village.


SCHOOLMARM NORDIS OLSON, back left, and her Old-Time Spelling Bee participants in the Schoolhouse. Winners in the event, standing at back with Mrs. Olson, include, from left, Khloe Saelee, first-place; Fairlane Penner, second-place and Claire Knutson, third-place. Additional student participants include, in front, at left, Aleah Ahlers, and at right. Josie Dick-Burkey and on the right, Ezra Petersen.


MOUNTAIN LAKE’S “UNOFFICIAL” City Flower – the Sunflower – rising fearlessly into the September sky. And look, a honey bee is “buzz”y at work.


KERMIT LEET ARRIVES for the first-annual Heritage Fair Auto Show at the wheel of his 1962 street rod – “The Quaker.” Leet built the auto as a senior in high school.


ALVIN SCHMIDT’S RED-and-white double “Pop-Up” 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner.


RODNEY GOERTZEN’S 1938 Chevrolet sports a rich deep maroon color – and its front end is faintly reminiscent of a squirrel with its chubby cheeks chock full of nuts.


DRYING CLOTHES IN the fresh September air on a line strung outside the Summer Kitchen.


GRACE TELLES, BACK, serves up schnetke (biscuit) and jam for Abigail and Elijah Nickel to savor in Minnesota’s only authentic Mennonite Homestead, a connected house and barn – as they were back in the day (circa 1884).


ARLENE STOESZ, RIGHT, guides Pastor Nathan Janzen, left, in a family research and genealogy search in the Welcome Center,


THE INTERIOR OF the Welcome Center is filled with large framed photographs of folks integral to Mountain Lake history lining the walls, along with clothing items brought along with the immigrants who settled the area and other historical mementos. Above, Mary Classen, back, explains the importance of the family in the photograph and the items on display to Austin Janzen, front and his sister, Leah Janzen, center.


THE OLSONS PREP for the Children on the Prairie Parade – with the participants clad in era costumes. Dad Andrew Olson kneels down to fit his daughter, Haddie, with an old-fashioned pioneer girl’s dress, while his son, Eli, back left, decides on a coonskin cap and leather vest (ala Daniel Boone) as his costume.


DAVID HARDER, LEFT and Wes Kroeker, right, package a “batch” of homemade vanilla ice cream spun to sweet and smooth perfection by Harder’s homemade ice cream maker machine.


ANOTHER BATCH OF rull coka (crullers), a deep-fried pastry, has been rolled out and cut by Dolores Krause. From here, the rull coka head to . . .


. . . THE HOT OIL to be deep-fried to a golden brown by Glennie Schroeder, front, with Karla Buller, back, stacking the finished product in a cake pan. The rull coka can be topped with any variety of jam for a sweet snack – or eaten with a refreshing slice of watermelon.


PORK FARMER JIM Dick pushes one of his favorite products – pork sausage patties. A sausage patty, laying on a thick slice of homemade dark bread (maybe spread with some homemade hot mustard), is a treat that is hard to beat.


DOWN THE LINE, Dr. Alvin Wiens and Elsie Schultz fry to perfect brownness frying-pans full of verenike (cottage cheese pockets), with Eileen Thiessen set to serve up the ethnic food that is then topped by cream gravy.


TAMMY CARTER IS back in her hometown for a visit and makes the excellent decision to have another serving of verenike and gravy. After all, Heritage Fair only comes around once a year.


THE TAKE-HOME Walk-Thru. In addition to celebrating the heritage of the Mountain Lake area with a hearty bowl of borscht at Utschtallung, gallons and quarts of the vegetable soup (featuring cabbage) is packaged, waiting to be purchased to be taken home and continued to be enjoyed for another day.


WILLARD DICK MANS the cream separator. Exiting to the left, the heavier cream and to the right, the milk.


MARGARET DICK PUTS the cream into the butter churn – and begins cranking.


EVENTUALLY THE CREAM turns to butter and is spread as an apropos topping on a saltine cracker and shared with Heritage Fairgoers.


THE LARGE WINDOW of the Mountain Lake Depot where the Station Manager and Telegrapher (perhaps the same individual) would watch as a train pulled into the station. As if on cue, Diane Dick exits the Great Northern Railway Caboose, at right.


THE BUSINESS SIDE of post office box #795.


THE SPARKS BROTHERS – from left, Duane, Russell, Bryon and Curtis – check out the view their grandmother, Sarah Feil, had as she served customers in her role as the postmaster for the Delft Post Office. The post office building was transplanted from Delft to its current location along Memory Lane. Feil made history as the first female postmaster in Minnesota history.


BEN DICK’S SHOE Hospital with all of the necessary equipment needed to keep the footwear of Mountain Lake residents happy, healthy – and polished.


THE POPCORN WAGON of Henry S. Buller that for years was positioned at the southeast corner of Mountain Lake City Park on Friday and Saturday evenings has another Buller – this round, Harvey Buller – preparing the popped corn concession.


PRACTICING TO BE firefighters themselves some day includes talking through the fire hose. This 1930 Model A Ford was Mountain Lake’s first fire “truck.”


RIDING HIGH UP in the wagon seat are Evelyn and Teddy Erickson.


JUGGLER LUKE WINGER, one of the entertainment performers for the afternoon, rehearses “backstage” in a quiet grassy area behind the Red Buhler Barn and the Gift Center.


MUSICAL PERFORMERS JEREMY Poland, right, and Lance Taylor, left, share their songs. Jeremy sings and works in Mankato and records in New Ulm. He plays gigs around southern Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and Northern Iowa.


THE JAEGER GENERAL Store added an antique wooden cash register to its countertop today. The donation to Heritage Village was made by Harry Fast and Herb Fast.


THE TOP OF the cash register, a product of National Cash Register, is highlighted by brass features – including an ink well, as noted by Lorin Epp.


CHECKERS FOR GAME day by the Olsons in the Jaeger General Stores. From left, Micah, Eli, Abby, Haddie and Lydia.


“ZAPPING” THE HAIR with electrified clips for a “permanent” curl was once the norm. The chair is empty in the Barber and Beauty Shop – ready-and-waiting for the next courageous client.


WALDO STOESZ, AREA elder statesman farmer, left, explains a couple of significant facts concerning an ear of corn to Roselyn Mielke, right, at the Residence/Granary. Stoesz first teaches Roselyn that every ear of corn has even row numbers. He tops that by explaining that each “hair” of the corn silk leads to a different kernel. If a “hair” is missing, so will be the kernel.


heritage 26
A LOOK OUT of the rear window of the Residence/Granary at a threshing machine, once used to separate out the flax, oat or wheat grain kernels from the straw and chaff. Many early settlers in the area built a combination home and granary, in which they lived AND stored the grain taken from their fields until they could afford to construct a separate home.


UNDER A BRIGHT blue September sky, Bill Baerg, front, finishes his hot dog as others mill along the north side of Memory Lane – the Jaeger General Store, the Barber/Beauty Shop and the Schoolhouse.


IT IS A given that at the close of every Heritage Fair Photo Gallery, a photograph of this trunk in the antique furniture back room of Dick’s Shoe Hospital will be posted. This pictured is a tradition as it is a part of my own personal heritage – my Neufeld roots. This trunk, labeled: “Nordamerika” and “Minnesota” and “Mountain Lake” – and is also engraved with the name, “Gerhard Neufeld” – my great-great grandfather. It was into this trunk that the entirety of the family’s belongings were packed in order to make the trip from the Ukraine, across the Atlantic Ocean, through Castle Garden and eventually to Mountain Lake. That family of 11 set sail from Bremen, Germany aboard the S. S. Strassburg in 1878. The group arrived in New York City on July 2, 1878. Fortunately the trunk had been protected and preserved by its owners over the course of the intervening generations, and is now a part of the Heritage Village collection.





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