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Wheelwrights capture fair

By Staff | Aug 15, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Members of the Western Canadian Wheelwrights Association discuss the next step at the Village Fair at Prairie Village Museum on Aug. 9.

More than 900 people came out to the Prairie Village Museum for food, fun and new entertainment.

According to museum director Cathy Jelsing, the highlight of this year’s fair, which took place Aug. 9 and 10, was the gathering and demonstrations put on by the Western Canadian Wheelrights Association.

“It’s something people have never seen before and we had a lot of great comments from people on that,” Jelsing said. “They really enjoyed watching the process, they were surprised at how meticulous the work was.”

According to gathering coordinator Mel Atkinson, members of the organization were making wheels and parts for three Civil War-era two-wheeled carts, including a caisson and a forge wagon, as part of the demonstrations.

“People are interested in it. It’s a new trade, a new craft for this area,” Atkinson said.

Thirty wheelrights were present at this year’s fair. The organization has over 100 members, the bulk of which are in the United States and western Canada. There also are members in New Zealand, Europe and the United Kingdom.

At the 2013 gathering in Canada, Atkinson mentioned to the organization the possibility of having an annual gathering on American soil. Once approved, Atkinson said he had Rugby in mind.

“When that happened, everything just came together,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson, who lives in Hazen, is a 15-year member of the wheelright’s association.

Three bands, two stages

Three bands were originally slated to perform on three different stages during Sunday’s festivities. Jelsing, however, said organizers ran into a meteorological snag with one of the stages.

GreenMan’s performance on Sunday was moved to the caboose stage instead of the back alley stage near the saloon. Due to wind blowing away the canopy, there was nothing to shelter musicians from the sun on the back alley stage.

Also performing on Sunday were 14-year old Brittan Grubb, of Mandan, and old-time band Highway 43.

Jelsing said planning for next year’s fair is already underway, particularly entertainment for it. She said they are looking into bringing back the Dakota Playboys, a New Rockford-based band who performed Saturday.

“I doubt we’ll do two days next year, but never say never,” Jelsing said.

Breakdown of numbers

According to Jelsing, about 225 people attended fair events on Saturday and about 715 attended on Sunday. There were 200 historical society members and more than 100 volunteers.

Last year, 850 people attended the Village Fair, which was held for only one day.

The fair is funded in part through grants from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Leevers, Iberdrola Wind Farms, the Pierce County Historical Society and the Pierce County and Rugby Endowment Funds.

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