This year’s Heritage Day will be more than its usual celebration of the past. Organizers will honor a man who was one of history’s best friends — a man who not only helped preserve the past, but bring it alive.
MUSCATINE, Iowa — The public is invited to take a seat in one of the best history classes around and attend Heritage Day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Wildcat Den State Park.
The park is located about 10 miles east of Muscatine off Iowa Highway 22 on Wildcat Den Road.
Heritage Day began in 1997 as a celebration of local pioneer history. The free festival features old-time music, food, antique cars and farm equipment, and many more history-themed exhibits.
John Carlson of Muscatine is the director of Heartland Harmony, a men's chorus that will be performing from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The group has been singing at Heritage Day for many years.
"It always seems like such a beautiful autumn day, and the little park is such a lovely place to be," he says. "People are out there expecting to have a good time. They're a happy audience."
Tom Hanifan is the president of Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill and one of the main organizers of Heritage Day. He says he expects the event will draw more than 1,000 guests to the park.
New entertainment this year will include a fiddler performing throughout the day, and harps and flute players performing from 10:30-11 a.m.. Returning once again is the popular Old Time Music Jam from 1-4 p.m.
Visitors can take a tour of the Pine Creek Grist Mill, Melpine Country School or the Old Stone Church. Aspiring dirt detectives can learn the art of grave witching (finding unmarked graves using hands, sticks, rods or other objects). A basket maker, weaver and quilter will also be on hand. In addition, people can check out exhibits of Native American artifacts, old-time tools or tin type photos. Kids can play in the corn sandbox or watch the wood carver create a piece of art. Many handcrafted items will be for sale.
Canoe rides and the Rubber Duckie Race will not be available this year, due to the lack of water in Pine Creek. Instead, organizers are adding a Duckie Pond where guests can grab rubber ducks for prizes. Also, there will be a silent auction with donations from local businesses. The auction will raise money for general expenses and restoration projects.
John Scott of Muscatine is the current president of Friends of the Old Stone Church and a Heritage Day volunteer.
"I enjoy seeing people connect with the past," said Scott.
Buckskinners Rendezvous, the annual celebration of the Mountain Man era, will also be taking place in the upper park on Friday-Sunday, Sept. 20-22. Participants will be dressed in period costumes and will reenact the activities and atmosphere of a fur trade camp pre-1840s style.
Todd Stammer of Muscatine is this year's Rendezvous "Booshway," the term for the leader of a party of mountain men.
"We're all history buffs," he said. "We're depicting a lost art." There will be 40-50 lodges with games, food, and demonstrations such as blacksmithing and candle making.
This year's celebration will be especially bittersweet for the organizers of Heritage Day. Ken Hyman, the founder of Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill, passed away Aug. 30 after a battle with cancer. Hyman established the group in 1996, and also started Friends of Melpine School. He helped reconstruct the Old Stone Church, and was recently leading the reconstruction of a 155-year-old log cabin that will be rebuilt at Wildcat Den State Park. Heritage Day 2013 will be dedicated to honoring Ken Hyman and the work he has done for so many years to preserve the history and beauty of the Wildcat Den area.