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Museum celebrates Harvest Festival
September 20, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Legacy of the Plains volunteer Rick Henderson is ready to demonstrate how hay used to be mowed. It’s one of the many activities this weekend during the Harvest Festival at the Legacy of the Plains Museum.

The 17th annual Harvest Festival, and the first for the combined Legacy of the Plains Museum (LPM), is scheduled this Saturday and Sunday at the museum campus, 2930 Old Oregon Trail west of Gering on the way to the Scotts Bluff National Monument.

The Festival is scheduled on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is $3 and free for children under 10.

“Haying is our feature crop this year,” said LPM volunteer Jack Preston. “We’ll be using different kinds of equipment that were used to mow and rake hay. Then we’ll sweep and stack the hay and we’ll bale some of it as well.”

Preston said the event has been so popular because people want to see how agriculture was done years ago. “It’s great for grandpa to bring the grandkids out.”

For the second year, the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center will also have activities and demonstrations during the event.

“What we share with Legacy of the Plains Museum is an interest in telling agriculture’s story,” said Dave Ostdiek, communications specialist at the Panhandle Station. “They do a great job telling how agriculture has changed over the years. A lot of that evolution involved ag research and what we do at the center.”

He added it’s important to tell the story of agriculture because a lot of people from this current generation aren’t directly connected to agriculture.

“The number of farms and ranches has been shrinking over the years,” Ostdiek said. “Ag producers have gotten very good at being efficient in feeding a lot of people per acre. But agriculture isn’t just the producers. A lot of local industries go into providing the inputs that make the production possible and also processing what they produce.”

One of the new activities the Panhandle Station has organized this year is the dung beetle race. These lowly insects play an important role in the ecosystem of the prairie in keeping rangelands healthy for cattle production.

Other demonstration conducted by UNL will include extracting DNA from plants, 4-H literacy activities about life on the farm, and educational activities about cattle and beef production.

LPN will continue their dig-sack take-home potato harvest both days.

There will be a tractor and horse parade, hay rack rides, a pedal tractor course for the kids and livestock displays. The museum’s small herd of longhorn cattle will also be part of the display. In conjunction with the livestock, where will be a cattledog demonstration of how dogs are used to help herd cattle.

Another added attraction will be a living history portrayal of Eleanor Barbour Cook, who along with her husband, James, founded the Cook Ranch near Agate Fossil Beds. She will be portrayed by Kelly Teale, one of the rangers at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

“The Harvest Festival appeals to people who have roots in agriculture and also for those who are just curious about the history of ag production,” said Katie Bradshaw, LPM executive director.

In advance of the event, LMP is hosting a roundtable discussion on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. on livestock production and how it’s changed over the years.

For more information on the Harvest Festival, call the Legacy of the Plains Museum at (308) 436-1989.
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