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All things rhubarb and more at museum’s Rhubarb Fest

By Sue Sitter - | Jun 26, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Volunteers Margie Heilman, left, and DeDe Bischoff stand ready to serve up samples of more than 20 assorted rhubarb treats at the Prairie Village Museum’s Rhubarb Fest June 20.

A celebration of all things rhubarb attracted residents from Pierce County and points beyond to the Prairie Village Museum Sunday, June 20.

The museum’s annual Rhubarb Fest featured goodies from rhubarb mini cheesecakes to rhubarb ice cream and rhubarb wine, all served in sample plates of six for five dollars.

“We’ve had quite a few people today,” Museum Director Jennifer Willis said. “We even had to get more food – more burgers and hot dogs. We had quite a turnout for rhubarb dishes today. It was really a wide variety.”

“We also have a car show and some craftspeople here,” Willis added. “There’s even a guy who makes guitars from cigar boxes.”

Visitors came from as close as Rugby and as far away as Nevada to sample the specialties and enjoy grilled hamburgers or hot dogs, all sold to raise money for the museum’s Adopt the Clock project.

The Brown Street clock, famous to many longtime Rugby residents, stood in front of the former Johnson’s and Lien’s Jewelry stores for decades. The museum had raised slightly less than $7,000 toward their $10,000 goal, according to a social media post dated in May.

Museum board member Michelle Lake served up samples in the museum’s Sandvik building.

“We have the Friends of the Museum donating dishes and helping to serve,” Lake said. “Some people are helping who aren’t with (the group).”

Lake listed the rhubarb treats available. “We have rhubarb cream cake. We have cinnamon rhubarb cake. We have rhubarb pie bars and mini cheesecakes. We have rhubarb jam here to taste with bread. We have rhubarb pudding. We have rhubarb wine samples from a local winery,” Lake said.

“The rhubarb ice cream is from Pride Dairy,” Lake said. Volunteer Margie Heilman served up scoops of the treat for eager visitors.

“I’d say about 20 people donated rhubarb items,” Lake said. “Some of them helped serve. It’s a big undertaking.”

Rhubarb treats were just one attraction for visitors to the event.

“We also have some craftspeople here today,” Willis added. “There’s even a guy who makes guitars from cigar boxes. We also have a car show.”

The Rugby Car Club hosted the show on the museum grounds. Attendees strolling among the outdoor exhibits stopped to check out the assortment of carefully restored classic vehicles, some of them dating to the 1950s.

Museumgoers nominated their favorite models for the Prairie Village Museum Rhubarb Fest’s People’s Choice Award.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with rhubarb,” the award’s announcer quipped.

The award went to 1955 Chevrolet Post owner Steve Fritel.

Fritel, who farms near Barton, held his steering-wheel-shaped trophy near his car as he posed for photos.

“The interior didn’t look like that coming off the showroom floor,” Fritel said, pointing out the new dove grey and dark red upholstery that matched the Chevy’s color scheme

“I redid the whole thing probably 15 years ago. I had someone put the headliner in, but I did the rest of it,” Fritel said.

“I did a lot of the work myself,” Fritel added. He credited Rugby body shop owner Steve Nelson for the car’s candy apple red and grey paint job.

It’s got a little different chrome. It’s not the high-end model, so to speak. It’s got a 327 engine in it.

“The drive train and interior I did approximately 12 years ago. I did a lot of the work myself. I enjoy cars. I like working on them and enjoy doing projects like this,” Fritel said. “I farm, so I know how to work on things, I guess. I’ve had a love for cars almost forever and I like working on them.”

Fritel, who says he restores cars as both a hobby and investment, owns 10 cars.

“I’ve got a building specific to this with vehicles parked in it,” Fritel said. “I’ve currently got a ’68 and ’69 Camaro and a ’79 Camaro.”

“I’ve got another ’55 Chevy that’s a four-door with original paint. It was a local neighbor who had the car. I upgraded the drive train and suspension so it drives like a newer car,” Fritel added.

“Then, I have a 1973 and my son has a a 1975 Corvette; I have a ’55 Chevy pickup; a 1970 Plymouth GTX. The 1955 (Chevrolet) is a car I’ve always loved and the ’69 Camaro is another one. Now that I’ve got both of them, I’m always keeping my eyes open, but I’m not really looking,” Fritel said.

“I’ve sold a few cars. I have a ’56 and ’57 Chevy. I’ve sold those, but I don’t want to keep buying and buying,” Fritel explained.

“I’m trying to zero in on ones I really like. In a sense I’ve got three models of ’55. I’ll be honest, when I started, I didn’t look at this as an investment, but they are,” Fritel said of his collection. “I do a lot of the work myself where, if you have a body shop or specialty shop do all this work, it becomes unaffordable. The time and hours add up. My time is worth something, too, but it’s different when you do your own.”

Fritel said the work he puts into his collection makes his hobby more enjoyable.

Near the museum’s blacksmith shop building, Dean Hagen, Maddock, and Jane Brehe, Agar, S.D., demonstrated their handiwork bending iron and steel into hooks and other art.

“We do a lot of artwork. We do a lot of everything. We don’t do horseshoeing. That’s a farrier’s job,” Hagen explained. “A lot of people get mixed up between blacksmiths and farriers. That’s like going to the dentist to have your gallbladder taken out.”

“I teach shop class at Warwick, North Dakota, at the high school,” Hagen said. “I also teach blacksmithing for the North Dakota Arts Council. Today we were supposed to be making a cross for the Germans from Russia Center, but there’s something wrong with the steel. We don’t really know what it is,” Hagen said.

The quality of metal used and other factors can make a difference in a piece’s success, according to Hagen. Sometimes, slight differences in conditions between towns can even affect the outcome of a project, Hagen noted.

Hagen said he planned to start again with different pieces of metal for the cross project. “Here’s what it looks like,” he said, pointing to a drawing of a cross edged with filigree trim.

Temperatures in the bituminous coal used to heat the metal can reach 14,000 degrees, according to Hagen.

Jane Brehe, who was learning the trade from Hagen, stood next to the smoking coals, which glowed red when Hagen cranked air from a bellows under the fire.

“You want the (metal) to glow red,” Hagen explained. “When it’s like that, it’s about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s when you can hammer it to shape it.”

“Here’s a heart,” Brehe said, holding a finished heart shape pounded from a horseshoe nail.

Hagen said he plans to come back to the Prairie Village Museum again to demonstrate his craft in August.

The museum’s gallery was also open, inviting attendees to view artwork created by wet plate photographer Ryan Stander and Belcourt artist Denise Lajimodiere.

Inside the museum’s main building, Willis said she was “very pleased” with Rhubarb Fest. “We had a great crowd,” she said.

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