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A pioneer experience

5/10/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Churning butter, gathering eggs and milking a cow aren't on most youngsters' to do list these days, but they could try their hand at them Wednesday at Pioneer Day at the Ellis County Historical Society Museum.

"It gives them a sense of what it was like living in the pioneer era in Hays and Ellis County," said Donald Westfall, the museum's executive director.

"This was so much a part of the original history of the region. A lot of that's been lost now, so we just live in a bygone era through these activities."

Approximately 500 children -- most from Hays USD 489 schools, but some home-schooled students -- were expected to attend, he said.

Larisa Roy, Palco, brought her four children, along with home-schooling families from Palco and Ellis.

It's more fun for them to come in a group, she said.

"My kids really like studying history, and so they like to come here and actually see things and touch," Roy said. "It helps them to learn and remember what they learned."

Michelle Callahan, a third-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, agreed.

"It's nice to learn about specific Kansas history and Ellis County history," she said. "You get so focused on American history and world history when they're older, that it's nice to have a good background about where they are at right now before they learn the bigger history."

The event was canceled because of weather last year, so teachers and students had their fingers crossed this year, said Gay Flax, another Roosevelt third-grade teacher.

And the weather cooperated.

Sunny skies and warm temperatures, along with a gently rolling hill, provided the setting for a gunny sack race.

"This was a bad day to wear flip-flops," said Bailee Hern, a Roosevelt third-grader, as she stepped into the sack.

Docents, dressed in period costume, gave presentations about saddle-making and everyday life in the harness shop and Volga German Haus.

"The presenters do such a wonderful job. It's so kid friendly here," Flax said.

Some of the students got their first look at the new Hays Fire Department Museum.

"They're really enjoying that. It's a nice addition," Westfall said.

Richard Shubert, Ellis County Rural Fire Department Company No. 2 chief, gave the visitors a tour.

"They got to put a helmet on and touch a truck," Shubert said.

Roosevelt teacher Amy Mayo was pleased to see the framed picture Roosevelt students and staff had drawn and signed in 2001. The picture was presented to the Hays Fire Department in appreciation after Sept. 11, 2001, and now hangs in the museum.