OSKALOOSA — The rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the visitors and volunteers who turned out to celebrate the 54th Annual Fall Festival at Nelson Pioneer Farm on Saturday.

The festival theme was 2019: Pioneer Spirit and Suffrage, in honor of the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote.

Several hundred guests, despite the less than ideal weather conditions, still showed up to enjoy lots of crafts, demonstrations, music, good food, pony rides and plenty of other activities. Guests remained flexible with locations and changes in plans throughout the day.

Festival-goers, many prepared with umbrellas and rain ponchos so they could stay dry, still enjoyed all that the festival had to offer.

The lunch menu was expanded this year to include beef and noodles, cornbread and coleslaw.

The event director, curator Margaret Spiegel, said she was grateful for the patience and understanding from all those involved in the event, including the volunteers and the vendors. Spiegel also said that there were a lot more youth who offered to volunteer this year.

Several community organizations set up information tables and interactive activities inside the buildings, and there was still ample room to move some outside vendors under the roofs to stay dry.

There were some brand new demonstrators and vendors, some who traveled from Ottumwa, Belle Plaine, and even Des Moines. An art installation, including a life-sized uplifting puppetry exhibit, debuted this year.

A guest author from Ottumwa, Rachelle Chase, made an appearance in the Buxton House to greet visitors and showcase her latest book, ‘Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa.’

Chase said she started researching the history of Buxton in 2008 after visiting Iowa with a friend, and then eventually moved to Iowa in 2014. Her first book about Buxton came out in 2017, while her most recent one was released in 2019.

The story of Buxton is a unique story about a unique and thriving coal mining town created by the Consolidation Coal Company.

“It’s an amazing story that needs to be told, even beyond Iowa,” said Chase, “and meanwhile, my main goals are to work on the preservation of the town, make the town’s history a larger part of the schools’ history curriculum and maybe even produce a documentary.”

Barnswallow Flowers and Produce, an all female-led business operation, prepared a large flower cart for Mahaska Marion Women Land and Legacy as part of the women’s suffrage theme. Their site coordinator, Meredith Nunnikhoven, brought a large cart of flowers and invited guests to come and grab a free bouquet of flowers to take with them. That gesture brought an unexpected wave of enthusiasm that made people forget all about the rainy skies.

“It was neat to see how the floral giveaway became a vehicle of giving with a message of community and local-minded product,” said Nunnikhoven. “People were excited and interacting, and I even saw some young boys getting excited about agriculture and pretty flowers, which was fun.”

Spiegel posted a thank you on their web site that said, “Thank you all for remaining cheerful and for enjoying the day with us, even if the conditions were less than ideal. We would not continue to grow and thrive at the Nelson Pioneer Farm without all of you.”

Learn more about Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum at www.nelsonpioneer.org/

Staff writer Richard Rindt can be reached at rrindt@oskyherald.com

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