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Storytellers sharing ‘War Stories’ at museum Spring Kick-Off

Grant supporting WWI programming

April 21, 2017
Pierce County Tribune

Prairie Village Museum kicks off its 52nd season Sunday, April 30, at the Rugby Eagles Club with a ham dinner served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a program featuring five local storytellers at 1:15 p.m.

Featured "War Stories" storytellers will be Duane Baillie, Hartley Hageness, Josh Siegler and Danielle Skjelver, all of Rugby, and Orlan Hall, Minot. Travis Gerjets, cofounder of the Minot Story Hour, will act as emcee.

This is the second storytelling event hosted by the museum. The first, "The Good Old, Bad Old Days: Storytelling with Travis Gerjets and Friends," was presented at the museum's 2016 Spring Kick-Off.

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"The storytellers were so well received last year," says museum executive director Cathy Jelsing, "we decide to repeat the format and bring Travis back again as our storytelling coach and program host."

Inspired by the 100th anniversary of United States' involvement in World War I, over the next two years Prairie Village Museum's programming will include a lecture series, a major museum exhibit, community book discussion, and a film series all related to WWI. Coordinated by museum collections manager Stephanie Steinke, these activities are being supported in part by an $1,800 Library for America "World War I and America" grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The "War Stories" program on April 30 will span several military conflicts. Hageness, owner of Hartley's Buses, will share tales of the Great War as told to him by his father. Retired pharmacist Duane Baillie will tell how his life was impacted by service in both WWII and the Korean War. Hall, who grew up near Upham, N.D., will base his story on his experiences as a combat infantryman in Vietnam. Skjelver a history scholar, mother of three and wife of a retired Marine veteran will relate stories of military family life. And Pierce County Sheriff Siegler will share his experiences as a Marine during the Gulf War.

Fact Box

Heitkamp & Prairie Village Museum Honor North Dakota's World War I Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp along with the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby Tuesday announced that the Museum has been selected as one of the 65 museums, libraries, and universities from across the country to participate in Library for America's World War I and America program to honor our World War I veterans.

The Library for America organized the World War I and America Program to recognize the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I and honor the veterans who served in the Great War. This will involve a traveling exhibition, multimedia, and a large collection of writings from Americans who served in the war. Events like this will take place across all 50 states and the Prairie Village Museum has been selected to host this event in Rugby, which will bring together local veterans who have served in the subsequent wars since then including those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This will offer the opportunity for veterans to tell their stories and to reinforce the reason why they serve and why it's important to understand the history of these conflicts.

"One hundred years ago this month, the United States entered World War I, and young men and women from all across North Dakota answered the call to serve their nation in a time of need," said Heitkamp. "Honoring the memory of those who served overseas as well as those who were on the home front on the farms and factories used to power the war effort is critical to understanding where we have been and more importantly to respect the sacrifices they made. While the veterans who fought in this war may no longer be with us, we must remember the history they have made. That is why it is exciting to announce that the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby will host the World War I and America program. This event will bring together historical resources and today's veterans to discuss the role America played in winning World War I and how it helped establish America's leadership role in the world."

"The chance to be a part of a nationwide event to honor our veterans is a great opportunity to remember their sacrifice and highlight the critical role that the United States performed at a turning point in world history," said Cathy Jelsing of the Prairie Village Museum. "The World War I and America program is a culmination of efforts of the Library for American and many museums, libraries, and universities across the country and the Prairie Village Museum is excited to be part of it."

The Prairie Village Museum will host events over the next two years that coincide with the 100 years since America's entrance and victory in the war and information on these events can be found on the Museum's website. For 2017, the Museum will host the traveling exhibit, two lectures, a community book discussion, and display World War I related photos, letters, other memorabilia, and will incorporate veterans and their families in each event. Other organizations partnering on this project include the Rugby American Legion Post 23, Heart of America Library, the Lyric Theater, and the Dakota Territory Air Museum.

North Dakota is home to a large German-Russian population with many people tracing their ancestry back to the nation that was at war with the United States, Germany. Even though many of the North Dakotans understood they could be fighting distant family members still in Germany, over 28,000 North Dakotans answered the call to serve in 1917, 474 never came home.

The World War I and America project is supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities that awarded the Library for America a $550,000 grant to support these efforts, $1,800 of which was awarded to the Prairie Village Museum. Since 1965, the NEH has played an important role in promoting cultural understanding, job creation, and supporting creativity in communities across America. The NEH is one of the largest investors in humanities programs in the United States - providing grants to museums, libraries, and universities, as well as public radio and television. However, under President Trump's budget which was announced several weeks ago, the NEH would be eliminated along with the programs they support to honor our veterans.

Freewill donations for the meal and program will support the museum's Boost the Caboose campaign. Local event sponsors include Ramsey National Bank, Thrivent Financial and the Rugby Convention & Visitors' Bureau. The museum's "WWI and America" partner organizations include American Legion Post 23, Heart of America Library and the Lyric Theater, Rugby, and Dakota Territory Air Museum, Minot.

Individuals interested in renewing or purchasing Geographical Center Historical Society memberships may do so at the Kick-Off. Memberships include museum season passes.

For more information visit, call 701-681-9342 or email The museum grounds open for school tours beginning May 2 and for touring by the public on May 15.



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