Winona strawberry fest to mark town’s 150th year

Shown is the Flax Scutching display at the Winona Area Historical Society Museum. This year’s festival will include a flax scutching demonstration for the first time since 2000. (Salem News photo by Kevin Howell)

WINONA — The upcoming Winona Strawberry Festival will be little more special than usual this year. The festival, slated for June 23, will mark the community’s sesquicentennial anniversary and include the return of the flax scutching demonstration as well as a display of quilts auctioned at previous festivals.

The Strawberry Festival marks the 150th anniversary of the town, which was founded under the Winona name in 1869 with the first post office.

The festival will be held at the corner of Winona Road and Cameron Street in downtown Winona. The Winona Area Historical Society is planning the celebration, and proceeds will support its museum programs and the two meeting houses and grounds where the event is being held.

This year’s festival will include a flax scutching, first conducted in 1935 until 1941, when it was discontinued at the start of World War II, than held again each year from 1979 through 2000. The demonstrations will be held every half hour beginning at noon on the porch of the 1895 Meeting House. Robert Brandt, vice president of the historical society and town historian, will lead the demonstrations. The presentation of Flax Scutching Queens will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the 1838 Meeting House/Museum.

There will also be a display of Signature Quilts sold during the Flax Scutchings of the 1980s and 1990s from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 1895 Meeting House. Approximately one dozen past quilts will be displayed, returning from all over country including Philadelphia, Florida and South Carolina. Each quilt featured the image of a historic building of Winona, as does this year’s quilt, which features an image of the 1838 Meeting House based on an image created by graphic artist Joan Dunavent Althouse. This year’s quilt, a 96-inch by 88-inch queen size one, is closely copied to the former quilts in color, background and stitching.

This year’s quilt will be included in the festival’s auction at 2 p.m. at the 1838 Meeting House/Museum along with a pie made by Don Conser, tickets to regional places of interest, gift certificates and items donated by local businesses and community members. The auction will be conducted through the kindness of the Rusty Kiko family. Items will be on display and visitors can register for a bidding number from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 1838 Meeting House/Museum.

According to quilting coordinator Alice Gamble, several ladies have worked on this year’s quilt, with about five regulars, since it was started on Jan. 29. The group has worked a couple hours a day twice a week while she has worked on it throughout the project. More than 600 hours and 800 yards of thread will have been invested in the quilt before completion, Gamble said.

“This is truly at community quilt,” she said.

Past quilts have sold from $575 to $2,350.

Festival Schedule

In addition to the flax scutching demonstration, quilt display and auction, there are a number of other attractions being offered during the strawberry festival.

Food service begins at 11:30 a.m. featuring barbecued chicken, sandwiches, sides, homemade ice cream and pies plus, of course, strawberries.

Derek Coffee, historical society president, will provide the welcome at 11:45 a.m. and soloist Jenna Althouse will perform the National Anthem at 11:50 a.m.

At the 1895 Meeting House, dulcimer musicians will provide entertainment and information, there will be a historical display about the Winona Friends Meeting and lacemaking demonstrations on the west porch, all from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At the Meeting House Grounds, there will be historical and informational displays from the Winona Methodist Church, the Winona Friends Church and the Winona Fire Department from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The festival concludes at the end of the auction.

Sesquicentennial

According to Brandt, the Winona area had residents, but until that time the town had no name. The name was derived from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” which featured an Indian maiden named Winona, he said.

The Society of Friends originally met at the Woodsdale Cemetery area, but outgrew that location. They built the Friends Meeting House in Winona at the current location at the corner of Winona Road and Cameron Street in 1838. In 1895 they moved moved slightly to the south to build a larger meeting house which continued in use until 2017.

The original 1838 meeting house over time has served as a Women’s Christian Temperance Union Hall, residential parsonage and church offices. Brandt said that in 2010 the Methodist church was going to tear the original building down, but the historical society formed and obtained private donations to move the structure back to the property where it was originally located, although a little bit to the east.

The historical society restored the facility to its original state and transformed it into a historical museum. Brandt said the historical society restored it to as near as possible what it would have been in the past, including the floor which is essentially the original one. Artifacts in museum are pretty much special to Winona, he noted.

Brandt shared two items of particular interest to Winona.

First, financing for the second meeting house was by subscription, in which community members committed money or work to construct the building, making it real community project. There were no bank loans or state grants and the building was completed with just $2,120.

Secondly, the cemetery at the meeting house included the grave of Edwin Coppock, who was part of John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry. He was originally buried at the meeting house cemetery by his uncle Joshua Coppock, but moved two weeks later to Salem’s Historic Hope Cemetery to avoid grave vandals and robbers.

khowell@salemnews.net

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