Young and old bring museum alive
Alaric Skjelver delighted visitors to the Prairie Village Museum’s first “Museum Comes Alive Day,” on June 1.
Alaric, one of about 20 costumed volunteers, was on the younger end of the actors and actresses ranging from grade-school age to senior citizens.
“This building has suffered three minor fires,” Alaric recited to groups that popped in the Asmundur Benson law office in the museum’s village. “It has survived without ever being rebuilt. It’s pretty cool.”
Alaric was dressed in a full suit with a bow tie and impersonated Benson, who practiced in Bottineau in the early 20th century. The outfit received approval from the late Benson’s grandson, Asmundur Swain Benson III, who practices law today in Bottineau.
About 120 visitors enjoyed conversation with 30 volunteers. Museum executive director Cathy Jelsing said the museum gained seven household memberships, two new single memberships and 11 total memberships were renewed.
Jelsing credited Friends of the Museum president Pat Bye for her vision of the event.
The idea was sparked by travels to other venues, including the Cypress Gardens in Legoland, Fla., where Bye saw women in southern belle dresses. At a Lions Club convention in Saskatoon, Sask., Bye witnessed hundreds dressed in character.
“It adds to the ambiance,” Bye said. “I thought why don’t we do something like this here?”
Ron Torgerson wore a strapping suit to give people tours of the old Silva School, where he attended class as a kid. Kenny Blessum played the sheriff at the York Jail with help from young Kordell Kraft as deputy. The sheriff contemplated a shootout with Pancho Villa, played by Yuma, Ariz., visitor R. Carbajal, who was also in costume.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Carbajal said. “What I like (at this museum) is there are more people getting to do things.”
Carbajal was visiting Rugby with a friend from the area. Other visitors came from Las Vegas, Boston and across North Dakota, including Grand Forks Air Force Base.
“If we can draw people from out of town for our community, it’s a great thing,” Bye said.
Bye dressed up herself and wore an all white outfit to run the creamery, where she gave children an assortment of ice cream treats. Rosie Armstrong and Janet Miller wore dresses common in the homestead days. Armstrong greeted people at the dress shop.
“I think it’s been really fun to see people from Arizona and Boston,” Armstrong said. “I was a military wife for 22 years, so it’s really fun to talk with people from all over the country.”
Miller said the attire helped open conversation with visitors jogging their memories.
“So many of the older people want to tell us their stories,” she said. “They say, ‘I was there! I saw this!’ It’s just great.”
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