Wagner: Participate in the activities of the 150th | Opinion


Pull that old wagon or buggy out of the shed and call your horses from the pasture. You and your entire family should be in Sibley on Sunday, May 1 for the Osceola County Fair Centennial Celebration Opening Event, Town of Sibley and Osceola County.

It will be a full day with a community meal, speeches, choir and band concerts and one of the most important political debates in the newly created Iowa House of Representatives District 5 this year.

All of the various programs, with the exception of the Community Meal, will be free and will take place in the large white pavilion at the Osceola County Fairgrounds.

The community meal, prepared by 1015 Steak Company of Sibley, will be served from noon to 1:30 p.m. on May 1 and will feature traditional foods enjoyed by the area’s early settlers. But some of the choices from 150 years ago will be replaced by staples we know better today. The pioneer family’s dandelion salad, for example, will be represented by a mix of today’s more appetizing greens. The full menu and how to purchase tickets in advance will be announced soon.

The program will begin at 1 p.m. with remarks from Jerry Helmers, Chairman of the Osceola County Board of Supervisors, who will announce and dedicate the start of our “150 Days for 150 Years” triple celebration.

Helmers will be followed by Sibley Mayor Jerry Johnson and Osceola County Livestock Association President Steve Voss, who will share the town and county fair’s enthusiasm for the summer’s events.

At 1:20 a.m., the day’s entertainment begins with the official opening of the Centennial Time Capsule which was buried on the south side of the courthouse in 1972.

Bill Frick, the Osceola County Auditor at the time, was instrumental in collecting the items and arranging for the burial of this capsule. Fifty years later, the committee asked the current county auditor, Rochelle Van Tilburg, to open and share the contents of the capsule. Although the sealed capsule will not be opened until then, it will be unearthed a few days earlier.

The afternoon program will recall the old Chautauqua who came to town and spread out his big white tent in Sibley’s Central Park every summer.

A Chautauqua, popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, featured various professionals in education, politics, religion, culture and entertainment appearing under the tent over a period of two or three days. The presenters were all professionals from outside the region and a different group of travelers were featured each summer.

Our 150th anniversary will begin with a guest appearance by the Sibley-Ocheyedan ​​High School Choir, under the direction of Vocal Music Director Kelsey Burns. The choir will bring a cultural aspect to our day with a variety of songs, including a catchy version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

The choir will be followed, after a short intermission, by Leo Landis from Des Moines. The curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa will share “How the Civil War Shaped Iowa.” Landis and the other speakers will each have approximately 30 minutes to present their program. Afterwards, participants in each program will have the opportunity to meet the speaker in a nearby building outside the pavilion to ask questions or share ideas.

The third presentation will be another entertaining cultural event with a short concert by members of the Sibley-Ocheyedan ​​Secondary School Orchestra. This award-winning organization, under the direction of Peter Carlson, will share selections from its spring concert.

The importance of the railway through Sibley will be the subject of the fourth program of the day. Mike Lenzen of Omaha, NE, editor of Chicago & Northwestern Historical Society magazine, The Northwestern, will speak on “How Railroads Developed Our Cities and Counties.” Lenzen, a longtime C&NW employee who worked regularly on trains passing through Sibley, recently finished writing and publishing a six-part series for The Northwestern about the early years of the route in St. James, MN, when this city was a major railroad hub,

Our final Chautauqua speaker will be former Sibley resident Matt Helmers, a professor at Iowa State University at Ames, who will represent our county’s agricultural interests. His show will recall conversations he had with his grandfather, the late George Helmers, about “Conservation in Osceola County Over 100 Years.”

The day will climax around 4 p.m. with a live debate between the three Republican primary candidates for the new District 5 seat of the Iowa House of Representatives. Dennis Bush of Cherokee, Zach Dieken of rural Granville and Tom Kuiper of rural Sibley will all be on hand to answer routine questions from members of the press representing the area.

The triple centenary of summer will be filled with many exciting and special days and events. Sibley’s Good Ole Summertime Celebration and Osceola County Fair will include various 150th anniversary events. But for now, May 1st is the date to keep in mind, and the Osceola County Fairgrounds is the place to be. We’ll see each other there.


Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/editor of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and can be reached at [email protected]


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