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Fall fundraiser will tour Rush County sites

Published on -8/16/2009, 4:34 PM

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By ELISHA BECK

Special to The Hays Daily News

The Ellis County Historical Society is sponsoring a fundraiser Oct. 11.

The fall bus tour will explore nearby Rush County, beginning at Pat's Beef Jerky and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Liebenthal. Also included in the tour is St. Mary church at McCracken, St. Mary, Help of Christians church at Loretta and Fairview Alpaca Farms, where guests will have hands-on activities such as hand-spinning fiber.

The tour concludes with a buffet dinner at the Four Corner Restaurant in La Crosse.

The cost of the fundraising event is $45 per person, tax included, and includes a luxury bus, entrance fee to the farm, visits to the churches, narrator and the dinner.

Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 5. Tickets are available now at the Ellis County Historical Society, Seventh and Main, (785) 628-2624; and the Hays Welcome Center, 2700 Vine Street, (785) 628-8202.

Oktoberfest

Quickly approaching is this year's Midwest Deutsche Oktoberfest, which will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 19 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Ellis County Fairgrounds.

Come enjoy free admission to a weekend full of German polka music and dancing, food and merchandise. Help support the ECHS by visiting our museum store booth in the Schenk building, located on the fairgrounds.

Summer exhibit

Through Aug. 29, we have the exhibit "Wartime Weddings" open in our historical Stone Church gallery. Our wedding exhibit presents the distinctive history and apparel of weddings during the 1930s and 1940s.

While weddings had become much more elaborate from those in the 1800s, war rationing called for innovative ways in which to create weddings and their fashions.

Visitors can view dresses, pictures and other related artifacts from Ellis County residents during World War II.

Fall exhibit

We are preparing the Oct. 13 opening of the exhibit "Music in Ellis County" in our permanent gallery. Music has played an important role in the history of Ellis County, and many talented musicians originated in the county throughout the years. Because of its location between Kansas City and Denver, the county has also seen its fair share of visiting musicians.

This remodeled exhibit will show artifacts related to music, bands, and music and dance establishments from all types of music and spanning many eras.

In addition to the artifacts we have already received, we would like many more band items for the exhibit. If there are some items such as photos or posters that you might not be willing to donate to the museum permanently, we would like the items on a temporary basis so we can make digital scans.

Feel free to contact us during regular museum hours if you have items for donation or even if you have written a history of a local band.

Museum store

The museum store is the perfect place to find Ellis County souvenirs. The shop is open during regular summer museum hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Aug. 29 will be the last Saturday we are open until next summer. Also, visit our Web site, www.elliscounty historicalmuseum.org, to view examples or purchase merchandise.

Board meeting

The public is welcome to attend our next monthly board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 31.

From the Archives

Peter Bissing headed one of the earliest orchestras in Ellis County. Bissing came to Ellis County in 1876 from the Volga River area of Russia with his family when he was about 5 years old. About the same age, he began the study of music on a four-octave organ made by his father, Justus Bissing Sr., and at 8 years old, he began learning to play the violin.

All five of the Bissing family sons played instruments and performed in the Excelsior Cornet Band originally formed in 1880. In 1894, Bissing became the band's leader. During this time, Bissing studied in music conservatories and finished violin instruction under Francis Boucher.

On Jan. 2, 1901, Bissing began the Bissing Conservatory of Music in Hays, which offered instruction in vocal, piano, violin, organ, harmony and composition.

In June 1903, Bissing received an invitation to study at Prague under Otakar Sevcik, one of the world's greatest violin teachers. After taking up this offer, Bissing returned to Topeka in 1906 and reorganized the Bissing Conservatory of Music. He returned with the stage name of Petrowitsch Bissing of Russia.

As well as being a talented musician, Bissing invented instruments, such as the dulcette, which is a cross between a harp and a piano. His brother, Justus Bissing Jr., a local architect and woodworker, built 50 dulcettes for Bissing to sell in Topeka.

Unfortunately, Bissing's backing fell through. Justus never received payment for his work on the instruments, and eventually auctioned off the dulcettes to pay for their storage.

At least three remained in Topeka: one at the Kansas State Historical Society and one in the music department of Washburn University. That dulcette is now the property of the Ellis County Historical Society.

* * *

For more information, contact us Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 100 W. Seventh, Hays, Kan. You can also call (785) 628-2624 or go to www.elliscountyhistoricalmuseum.org.

Admission to the museum is $4 for adults and $1 for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Members and children under 3 are admitted free of charge. Our research facilities are included in museum fee on weekdays. The research facilities are not open on Saturdays.

Elisha Beck is curator and exhibit designer at the Ellis County Historical Museum.

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