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10/17/2013 3:00:00 PM
Rural Heritage Tour allows Bicentennial visitors to see county's past and present

The final weekend of the Vevay Switzerland County Bicentennial featured perfect 'Chamber of Commerce' weather, and that brought out big crowds for many of the events.

The highlight of the weekend was the Rural Heritage Tour, which allowed visitors to tour three sites: The Thiebaud Farmstead; Musee de Venoge; and the Garland Dairy Farm. The event was open for visitors on both Saturday and Sunday, and allowed everyone to see two distinct periods of history, along with a modern, working dairy farm.

Martha Bladen of the Switzerland County Historical Society said that everyone was very pleased with the turnout at the Thiebaud Farmstead, which is located on State Road 56 west of Vevay.

"We were very pleased with attendance," Martha Bladen said. "Along with our local people, we did have a lot of people come from outside the area. Some of them actually came because they were centering a family get together around the Bicentennial events. The Thiebaud family rented the Senior Center and had a reunion there and then came out to the Farmstead afterwards."

Visitors to the Farmstead were treated to a wide array of interpreters and demonstrators.

Vevay's Jerry Wallin was doing coopering - barrel and bucket making, among many other things; and Floyd Whitham had a display of tokens, coins, and currency through the 1800s. His collection is developing along the time period of the Farmstead.

"Floyd was used to doing things and collecting from an earlier time period, but now he's really getting into the 1850s and 1860s," Martha Bladen said.

Sundra Whitham was spinning in the house; while out in the kitchen area behind the house, the 'Thiebaud Ladies' consisting of Judy Terpening, Mary Terpening, and Macy Barwick were showing visitors how food was prepared in the time period and what a typical day for the ladies of the household would have entailed then.

Outside, Zach Bladen was busy splitting wood and doing other chores that a young man would have been expected to do during that time period.

On the lawn, the group 'Forget-Me-Nots' performed period dances, along with audience participation. The group was dressed in period clothing for the Thiebaud Farmstead, and the dances that the group taught would have also been indicative of the time period.

Later, the group moved over to Musee de Venoge and performed for the time period of 1813, changing their clothing to represent the new era, and also changed the dances that they performed and taught to be more time period appropriate.

"We had slips that people could fill out and tell us what they liked, and the music and the dance was extremely popular," Martha Bladen said. "People also loved the house. They loved everything."

Roger Huron and Ron DeVore were playing music inside the house, with Roger playing the fiddle and other stringed instruments; while Ron played the dulcimer.

There were also several interpreters inside the house, explaining the different elements of life at that time. Among them, Helen Parks talked with visitors in the main room of the home; and Anita Danner was upstairs in the bedrooms talking with guests. Many others moved around the area, stopping to chat with the visitors who had questions or who wanted some information about the property or the time period.

The Farmstead took everyone back to the 1860s, which was when the second generation of the Thiebaud family built their house and raised their 10 children in that house.

Also on the lawn, a Civil War encampment by the 'Vernon Grays' of North Vernon was at the ready to defend the Farmstead from an attack, and gave visitors a glimpse into how soldiers lived during war time.


At Musee de Venoge, the time period of 1813 took everyone even further back into Switzerland County History.

Donna Weaver said about 300 people visited Venoge over the two days, with 200 coming on Saturday. Those attending had a real chance to interact with the different interpreters, learning about life in the early 19th Century.

"Not totally new faces, but we had a lot of new faces," Donna Weaver said. "We collect mailing addresses and email addresses for our newsletter, and we've gotten about 40 totally new names, which is wonderful because new people have seen what is happening."

She said that everyone loved the wide variety of demonstrations that occurred at Venoge over the two days.

Among the areas that people could explore was the work of a rifle maker; and Sherry Hendershott displayed basket making.

Tony Holbrook led a geographer's unit from Ohio for the Heritage Tour. The group brought early transits and equipment for plain table mapping, along with many early maps.

Sewing, hearth cooking, and spinning and weaving were also popular stops at Venoge, with Melodee Stepleton of Vevay being one of the presenters who took time to explain her weaving on the Venoge front porch.

Michael Thompson was also a popular figure at Venoge, as he demonstrated musical equipment and pocket fiddles, playing for everyone while teaching about how the instruments are made - then and now.

A small militia unit also was encamped at Venoge.

"The unit was small because many of their members were at a big competing event in Lafayette," Donna Weaver said. "They did a wonderful demonstration of training and firing, and they tried to get a few young men to sign up, and they were successful in getting a few."

Donna Weaver said that the until portrayed the unit of Elisha Golay, which was the actual unit here in Switzerland County in 1813.

"That made Jerry Golay very happy, because that was his relative," Donna Weaver said. "Elisha Golay was also a surveyor, and Tony Holbrook briefly taught Jerry how to survey, so they did a brief survey of the Venoge property."

Saturday evening featured a traditional ox roast on the grounds, while everyone then ventured to the Thiebaud Farmstead for desserts.

"We had great response from our presenters," Donna Weaver said. "The crowds were great and asked really great questions, and that made everyone very, very happy."


The crowd also ventured to the Roger Garland dairy farm for a new element of the Rural Heritage Tour, and everyone enjoyed seeing the workings of a modern dairy farm.

The cheese produced by the Garland family also proved to be a hit with visitors.

Overall it was a very successful event, and plans are already in the making for the tour stops for next year.

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