This quilting season is nearly over. Only a few more weeks and the old school house will be transformed into part of the museum. Tourists will reminisce about the small wooden desks, the old maps showing countries that no longer exist. Children visiting will pull hard on the rope to ring the school bell high up in the belfry. Volunteer docents will open the historical buildings everyday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The quilters will take a break from their Friday routine. Some will continue to sew at home. Others will put their energy into gardening. And of course with summer in Montana, there are always plenty of out of town guests.
Although there is a symmetry to the quilting that happens every Friday from September til May, there are also changes. Renata had the awesome idea to display quilts in the old church over Rendezvous weekend. We received many compliments and one of the quilts sold. A few new people to town have become great volunteers to help with displays in the museum and to help keep the grounds neat. Bev is taking over scheduling docents for the museum. No easy feat to have a schedule that includes having someone knowledgeable to work there every single day of summer. Dianne and a few others are putting together a mass mailing – the first time we have done anything like this. We know we need to find more support for keeping the buildings in good shape, for having volunteers help with projects, for paying bills.
Often we roll our eyes – how many times do we need to explain that Lincoln County owns the land under the Historical Village, but the buildings, grounds and upkeep are managed by the Tobacco Valley Board of History? Since the 1970s, a stalwart group of volunteers have kept this lovely area of Eureka in tact. Items are carefully archived. Old photos filed. Questions answered when someone stops by to ask about the early days.
As you attend Shakespeare in the Park or the Eureka Montana Quilt Show this summer (both events held at the Historical Village), appreciate the grounds, this lovely public space that is so valuable to our community. Consider some small way you might help us maintain it.
Yes, the snow is nearly melted in our valley. There are still patches under trees and on the north side of the old school house but otherwise we see bare ground, mud puddles and a few spring flowers pushing through. The women are hard at it trying to get the current quilts finished by the end of April. That is when things shift for us into the next season.
On April 28, it is Rendezvous in Eureka which mean vendors fill the Historical Village grounds and there is the largest parade of the year down main street. The old school house will be transformed from the place we quilt all winter into a book sale. Stop by if you are in town to pick up some great bargains. Then in May school children take their annual trip to visit the museum. We also have a rummage sale, another opportunity for bargains and to get raffle tickets for a lovely quilt we made. And finally on May 26, the Historical Village announces the summer season. Everyday until Labor Day, volunteer docents will open all the buildings and are available to provide information to visitors from 1:00 – 5:00pm.
So now we are trying to get the last quilts finished up. Jana, a guest from the Czech Republic, has been joining us to learn how to quilt and to share her travel adventures with the women as they sew. Cathryn created a pile of new baby quilts that are perfect to welcome little ones to the world. Sally made some lovely children quilts that are for sale in the museum along with our full size tied quilts and, of course, the beautiful hand quilted ones. If you are in town for Rendezvous or just ambling through the Historical Village grounds on a sunny afternoon, stop by to learn about our valley’s history and perhaps purchase a quilt to support this remarkable space.
This past Friday it snowed. A lot. And it didn’t look good. It wasn’t just the fact that most of us are tired of winter by this point, but the concern that bad roads might hamper people coming to the fundraiser in Trego on Saturday afternoon. Saturday though dawned better with a bit of sun and so our anticipation became more optimistic. But you never know do you with these community events if there will be enough people, if its possible to even make the costs of putting the thing on let alone raise funds to help support the Historical Village? On top of the weather and other unknowns, there were questions about the event itself. We hadn’t really done anything quite like this before. A concert with a band from out of the area (actually The Wardens are from Canada so out of the country!) with a potluck and community jam to follow. We had decided to do it in Trego because the hall there is so nice with great acoustics and a large kitchen, plus enough space if we did get a real turn out. But would we? Would people drive from Eureka on snowy roads to support the Historical Village and enjoy this potentially great event?
Al went out early that day to get a fire going so the hall would be warm. He also plowed the parking lot (thank you so much!). The band arrived around 1:30 to start setting up. Quilters and John Linn came a little later to hang quilts and set up tables for selling some handmade items. With the concert scheduled to begin at 4:00pm, one might hope people would start to show up at 3:30ish but it started very slow. Finally around 3:45 cars began to pull in and then more cars. We had to set up extra chairs. When people were still coming through the door at 4:00, the band decided to start a few minutes late. What a fabulous turnout! Over seventy people came to listen to great music, potluck with neighbors and then hang a bit for the jam. Some people played music, some danced, some talked with friends, some met new people, some tried new foods (Dawn’s outrageous Bhutan momos).
It isn’t only the wonderful turn out but the energy people brought to the event that made it such a great evening. Lots of laughter and hugs. We sold a quilt and a box of Mary Louise’s homemade chocolates. Some folks generously wrote checks to support the Historical Village. Others asked for information to learn more about the Tobacco Valley Board of History. And the help that made this all possible! From John climbing his 10′ ladder to hang quilts to Mike washing dishes and Mircea mopping the floor. Everyone pitched in to set up chairs and then at the end of the evening, to put chairs away. Ray got the jam circle going, Ed helped the band carry their things out to the van, Patty and Darrell took trash bags to the dumpsters. What a special evening…what a special community. Thank you, Eureka!
Late winter in this part of Montana can be gray. And once we move from constant snow to snow with mud, that grayness feels even more difficult to endure. Which is why the Historical Village volunteers had the great idea to have a late winter community event that promises to rock your socks and raise some funds for maintaining the Village.
On March 3rd, The Wardens play at the Trego Hall starting at 4pm. An easy time of day to drive out and catch this great band from Canmore, Canada. Up in those parts, a ranger is called a warden. These three musicians/wardens have worked in the back country around Banff for a lot of years so know mountains and horses as well as music. Admission for the concert is $8/per with tickets on sale at the door.
We figured once folks come out to Trego to hear good music, they might just want to stay and enjoy themselves a bit longer. There will be a potluck after the concert (starting around 5:30) and then a music jam. Ray and Shirley Jacobs met The Wardens recently and encouraged us to bring them to Eureka. They will be there. Hope you are too. If you want a preview of The Wardens, check out their website here.
So mark March 3rd on your calendar and come out for a good time. Bring a dish to pass if you want to stay for the potluck, and if you play music then please bring your instrument along. Otherwise come to listen and enjoy this late winter treat. Oh, and there will be beautiful handmade quilts for sale as well.
This quilt wasn’t made by the women at the Historical Village. It was actually created by Patty, another wonderful quilter, who lives here in the valley. She must have quilting in her blood as she gets second hand clothes from various places, figures out a pattern that she likes, cuts up the clothing and begins to sew. I am always amazed at what she comes up with. This particular quilt she made as a donation to help refugees. Each time it was taken out to be shown at a fundraising effort, people sighed with delight.
The last time I took it out of a bag, it was to box it up at the post office. The quilt was about to be sent off to its new home and for whatever reason I always seem to do my boxing up at the post office on their counter. Two women in line watched me and when I shook the quilt out to fold it up as small as possible (a trick with a double bed quilt), they exclaimed simultaneously how beautiful it was. I agreed. One woman lamented that she always wanted to learn to quilt but had never had the chance to try. I pointed out she could easily join the Friday quilters at the Historical Village. They would be happy to teach her the joys of hand quilting. There are other quilt guilds in town that would be glad to mentor her along as well. But she had reasons – Friday’s weren’t the best day and she didn’t know if her sewing machine worked and besides where could she spread out a project like a quilt in her house.
There are always reasons aren’t there? Reasons why we can’t study Spanish or call up that older friend we think about. Reasons why we aren’t able to volunteer or clean out the top of the closet. Of course sometimes the reason makes sense. But often times we find ourselves justifying why we can’t do something that part of us really would like to do.
Rather than focus on all the reasons one can’t do something, this quilt made me aware of what we can do. Patty finds the used fabric and inspiration to make quilts. This particular one helped support a family who had the gumption to come to a new country. There is a friend in town who decided to learn Spanish so he bought some CDs, a bilingual dictionary and some books. I must admit I had my doubts about this self-teaching method until a few years later when I heard him converse in Spanish with a musician visiting from Mexico. There’s Bernice Ende, another friend from the valley, who has been a long rider for years now. She rides a horse across to all parts of the US. She tells me she can’t keep track of all the people who say they would like to do what she does. But they don’t. Sometimes their reasons make sense. They have young children at home or need to be available for aging parents. But sometime their reasons are downright flimsy.
So when you hear someone say with sincerity that he or she really wants to do something, tell them – you can! Push aside all the thin reasons they might offer up as to why they can’t. Encourage them to climb on that horse or pick up CDs to learn Russian or walk into the Historical Village on a Friday ready to learn how to quilt. Our world needs people who follow their dreams. Turn those dreams into realities. Yes, you can.
This time of year in northwest Montana, any glimpse of blue sky has everyone smiling. Even while focused on stitching, the women look up in unison when light through the old school house windows gets slightly brighter with a break in the clouds. January not only brought us a few snatches of sun, but also three new Tobacco Valley Board of History volunteers. Not quite enough for all that needs to be done but certainly a good start. Magdalena is new to the area and a great fit for helping with displays as she wants to learn more about local history. Michelle has the energy to help out with the grounds and the shrubbery once we get into spring. Ya’aqov, a retired librarian, is learning to maintain the archives from Cathryn. And having these three awesome individuals step up, encourages us to think there just might be others in the community who want to help maintain our local heritage.
Perhaps though people have other ideas about what to do with their spare time? Maybe they see maintaining artifacts, photographs and historical buildings from the Tobacco Valley as frivolous. Why think about the past when there are sufficient worries for the present? And don’t even mention the future! But our past has a lot to offer, not only to school children who come each spring to visit the exhibits or the tourists who pass through on summer afternoons, but to all of us.
Some locals lament about lack of business in the area and how the town is going to dry up. The old newspapers in the Historical Village files tell of the same sentiment numerous times throughout the town’s history. But there has always been something new that came along. Eureka was once the Christmas tree capital and there was logging. There were the years when the Libby dam and the train tunnel were built that brought many new people and jobs to this area. There were opportunities and change and dry spells and then new opportunities appeared.
The files show how the Tobacco Valley News, our local newspaper that still comes out weekly, got started. There are articles telling about how the valley first got internet and the volunteers who helped set it up. A computer shop now occupies the building where the office supply store used to be (a business now farther up the road in a larger space), and the same building that used to house the newspaper (which moved behind the bank). Things change for sure but there are things to be learned from the changes. How can we make transitions easier? Where do new ideas for our town come from? How have great additions to the valley come about in the past? What can we use from those experiences to continue to make this a place where we want to be?
Quilting has started for the season. The women are hard at it sewing on a lovely one that Lynda pieced. We are getting back into our rhythm sewing together, talk, lunch at noon. Occasionally one of the women will get up to do a chore. Dianne sorts out the change box and pays bills. Cathryn catalogs items that are donated to the museum. Lynda keeps track of the to-do list which seems never ending. The door to the old school house was recently repaired. We are still hoping for enough funding to fix the caboose which is sadly in need of renovation. Some of the quilters mention to me there really should be a photo posted of the woman who won the raffle quilt this year. She is Canadian and a shirt-tail relative of Bev’s. She came down to Eureka to pick the quilt up, saving us postage and allowing for this great photo in front of the museum (thank you, Bev, for taking it). Its a lovely quilt and we all remember stitching on it. Nice to know that it will be appreciated.
And then Gary D. donated an amazing antique quilt to the Historical Village. After much discussion, it was decided we should have a special raffle for it. Tickets are $5/piece or four for $20. Dianne took the quilt to a man who does work with the Antique Roadshow. He said it was made between 1890-1910 and worth about $650. Its quite beautiful and the photos don’t do it justice. The fabrics glow! We will sell raffle tickets for it until the Eureka Montana Quilt Show in August 2018. This winter it hangs in a quilt shop in Bigfork and then will come back to Eureka in the summer for the quilt show on August 4th. A wonderful gesture by Gary to help the Historical Village and a great opportunity for someone to own this lovely piece of history.
It is astonishing how many people reach out to help the Historical Village keep going. Not only the women who quilt all winter, but those who help with the countless other tasks, people who make donations of items or money, those who give time to help paint or trim bushes or dust displays. Those who buy raffle tickets! And yes, those who have us finish a quilt for them. I suppose it could be said It takes a village to keep a Village.