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Small-town celebrations: Banner County

July 8, 2012

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.

I laughed out loud at this 1956 advertising poster on the wall of the service station. “Spectacular! Devastating! Educational” “Do Not Attend If You Have A Weak Heart!”

“I’m for prohibition”? *chuckle* (See next image from inside the museum building.)

A still that washed down from a Wildcat Hills canyon, on display in the Banner County Museum.

… and a drug store …

A message to the criminally inclined

Mmmm … snake oil ….
Mmmm … swamp root …

… and a school building …

Bugman gets a teacher-eye view of the Flowerfield School. It’s tiny! This is the building where area 4th graders come each year to spend a day learning what school would have been like for early settlers’ children.

… and a church …

I’ve seen plenty of artifacts from Mexican, Japanese and German-Russian settlers in the region. This is the first Swedish-language artifact I’ve encountered.

… 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:

Think this would be an effective marketing tool in the campaign to reduce automobile greenhouse gas emissions?

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.)

The lead parade vehicle

The county’s grass fire truck

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

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 9:32 am

    The riding alone=riding with Hitler sign cracks me up. I would like to meet the mind behind the creator of that sign, if only to ask what inspired the slogan.

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