Small-town celebrations: Banner County
Perhaps because I grew up in a Chicago sprawl suburb, where the borders of one community blend into the next and identity of place seems more “horde” than “home” to me, in my adult life I became enamored of small towns and their distinct personalities. And what better time to get a sense of a small town’s personality than during an annual festival?
On June 9 this year, I made a point to make room in my schedule for the annual Open House at the Banner County Museum in Harrisburg (population 100; Banner County population 690).
Bugman and I did not get there in time for the 5K race (maybe next year), but we were able to take advantage of the pancake feed at the town fire hall. There was no collection table. Diners dropped freewill donations into a bucket before picking up a plate to make selections from the sausage-egg-pancake buffet kept stocked by members of the fire rescue squad.
Between the pancake feed and the start of the parade, there was plenty of time to peruse the exhibits at the Banner County Museum (which is normally only open on summer Sunday afternoons).
In addition to the museum building and machine shed, there are several small buildings on the museum grounds just north of the fire hall.
There is an 1890 bank …
… and a 1930s service station …
I enjoyed some of the memorabilia on display on the service station walls.
… and a drug store …
… and a school building …
… and a church …
… and a tiny, spare sod house reconstruction and a reconstructed log house and a stone-building general store and a barn.
I have to post a photo of one more artifact that caught my eye in the main museum:
By the time we explored all the buildings, it was just about time for the parade to start, so Bugman and I headed out into the hot sun, where there was not much more than a telephone pole for shade. (I’d advise bringing a parasol / umbrella.)
As the parade ended, Bugman and I chomped on Tootsie Pops that had been pitched to us from a flatbed trailer by members of the Banner County football team.
Elsewhere on the museum grounds was a craft fair, silent auction booth and barbecue cook-off. We didn’t stay long enough to catch the lunch served by the football team or the speaker or the pie-eating contest, but I think I saw enough to say with confidence that the Banner County Museum Open House is a classic, small-town celebration of Americana that connoisseurs of such events should not miss.
Copyright 2012 by Katie Bradshaw