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Legacy ready to unveil artifacts display
September 16, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Volunteer Dave Henson explains the involved process of getting mules ready for plowing. His presentation was part of the Technology Through Time: FARMhands on History program for area fourth graders to learn about the history of farming.

Since the Farm And Ranch Museum and the North Platte Valley Museum merged into Legacy of the Plains Museum in 2013, plans have been in the works to build a state-of-the-art exhibit hall to showcase the artifacts housed in both museums. That hall will officially open to the public this weekend.

“All of today’s farm technology came from somewhere,” said Legacy Executive Director Sandra Reddish. “We’re telling the history of how agriculture has gone from horse drawn equipment to mechanization. It’s amazing how many people still don’t know about agriculture’s rich history.”

Ribbon cutting on the hall is scheduled for Saturday, September 17 at 11 a.m. during the museum’s 20th annual Harvest Festival at Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is west of Gering on Old Oregon Trail, on the way to the Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Harvest Festival started with the Farm And Ranch Museum to tell the story of how agriculture was accomplished in the last century. Demonstrations of blacksmithing, horse drawn plowing, and the operation many other farm implements were part of the fun during the two-day event.

This year, visitors can attend the Harvest Festival September 17-18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Sunday. Beans will be featured this year, with demonstrations on how they’re planted, cut, harvested and readied for market.

Representatives from 4-H, Farm Bureau Foundation, and the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center will be on hand to talk about the bean industry and how it’s grown over the years. Another popular activity is digging for potatoes, where the public can take home what they dig. The kids aren’t left out, as both days will feature a corn maze, kids’ activities and games, a hay bale fort, a pedal tractor course, and a barrel train ride.

On Saturday from 7-9 a.m., the Gering Kiwanis plan to host a pancake breakfast feed. For $5 dollars, it’s all you can eat. Sunday activities start at 9 a.m. with a faith service. On both days, tractors and horse-drawn equipment will lead a noon parade through the museum grounds.

The $5 admission covers all the grounds, including the historic Wiedeman house behind the museum’s main building. The exhibit hall has a separate admission of $10 for adults; $5 for college students with school ID; $5 for youth age 6-18; and children 5 and younger are free.

The exhibit is interactive. Visitors can learn about a range of topics including local history, the history of the pioneer trails, commerce, immigration, domestic life, frontier military life, entertainment, and communications.

“It’s set up like a big maze that has 17 touch screens,” Reddish said. “In each of the buildings a video explains what that exhibit is about. One video gives a history of how irrigation came to the valley, starting in the 1890s.”

Reddish said they want to have exhibits that will appeal to all ages. “Hopefully, people will find something new to learn here, no matter their interest.”

Another part of the museum’s outreach is their annual Technology Through Time: FARMhands on History program, which is scheduled the week before the Harvest Festival. Working with Educational Service Unit 13, the museum hosts several hundred fourth graders from schools around the area. About 45 museum volunteers tell the story of how agriculture was done in our past and demonstrate some of the equipment used at the time.
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