by Shayndel Smith
Spring break is over, and you’re on to your family’s next adventure. Summer is on its way. Do you find yourself asking, “How will I fill up the schedule so the kids won’t be bored?” The playground, swimming pool, summer camp, soccer league and the movies are probably all things on your to-do list, but have you thought of taking your children back in time one or two hundred years?
American West Heritage Center (AWHC) Volunteer Coordinator Karen Larson wants you to know that’s exactly what you’ll do if you pay a visit there. And when you come, there is a multitude of volunteer workers on site who will make sure you have a good time while you do it. In fact, it’s the volunteers who make this living history museum and working farm possible. AWHC’s purpose is to preserve history and educate the community about the cultures that make up Cache Valley. Karen emphasizes that for the many volunteers who dedicate their time to working at the AWHC, their main goal is to ensure that families who come have a great time.
When you visit, you may be greeted by an 1820’s mountain man in period clothing, or a Shoshone Indian dressed in tribal wear who will tell you about the first inhabitants of the area where you live. You’ll encounter pioneer women from the 1860’s spinning and carding wool. Farmers step out of the year 1917 to work on steam tractors, apple cider presses and milk the cows. All of these folks are volunteers who come to the AWHC each day with individual skill sets and knowledge they’re excited to share. There is only a skeleton crew of paid staff at AWHC, while the rest is a mix of volunteers ranging from young people and college students to families who volunteer together and retired seniors.
Why do they do it? Karen said that some volunteer women find it a thrill to cook over the wood burning stove each day, others love talking with the children and watching them touch a live animal they’ve never seen before. Some volunteers come to “unplug” from the world, and bring their children or grandchildren along.
Former volunteer manager, Lorraine Bowen, has given over 20 years to the AWHC and still remains a volunteer, “The AWHC is a family place where you meet many wonderful people and gain new friends,” she said. “I love cooking over a wood burning stove, hat making, sewing, quilting, gardening, milking and even playing a great game of farm ball. The quietness of the farm is refreshing from the busy lives we live today.”
Other volunteers explain they love simply interpreting the era they’re assigned. They enjoy helping visitors experience a “hands on” history for themselves. At the AWHC visitors get to do things like throw a tomahawk, push a handcart, spin wool, milk a cow, gather eggs, make a rag doll, wash clothes with a hand-cranked roller, ride on a train or pony and even play pioneer games.
So, if all you can think of is another trip to the 3D-movies in digital HD when you’re planning your family’s next adventure, remember there’s another kind of good ol’ fashioned entertainment just a short drive away. You will take a step back in time to the simpler life of great grandma and grandpa for an even smaller price than admission to a movie.
The American West Heritage Center has an indoor still-life representation museum, as well as outdoor, daily activities at five living history sites. They also hold numerous special events throughout the year including: Baby Animal Days, Pioneer Days, Fall Fest, Halloween Haunted Hollow and the Christmas Feast. Admission hours are seasonal, and pricing varies, please check www.awhc.org for more information.