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Giving props: Students portray historical Minnesotans as wax figures

FULDA -- For more than an hour, Linda Beerman's sixth-graders stood stock-still in the Fulda Elementary gymnasium, frozen like the wax figures they were pretending to be, as students of all ages and parents, too, wandered by to learn.

Fulda students perform as sculptures in their own wax museum every year, but this year, the 150th anniversary of Minnesota's statehood, sixth-graders portrayed famous Minnesotans.

"It gets kind of hot and sweaty, and you have to wait a while, but it's fun," said Matt Kunerth, who portrayed Josiah Snelling. "You honor the person you're acting as."

Kunerth wore a suit and sat poised to write at a desk for his portrayal of Snelling, who was the builder and first commander of Fort Snelling -- once a military fortification and now an educational historic site. The sixth-grader chose Snelling because Kunerth's grandfather works in construction.

The 28 students were arranged in the gym according to the birthdate of their historic people.

Students also prepared museum-style placards with facts about their chosen historical figures for the display. They had to use makeup, and many of the boys had to slick their hair back for the performance.

Before the museum event, the sixth-graders wrote papers about their historical Minnesotans and visited Fort Snelling and toured the Capitol, getting to see some of the history they intended to portray.

The wax museum was a tour of Minnesota history and likely proved educational for the adult visitors just as it did for the students.

Many of the names would have been familiar to long-time area residents. Gus Saenz donned a beard and military epaulettes to become Henry Sibley, first governor of Minnesota. Sibley, Iowa, is named after him.

Jordan Clarke portrayed Alexander Ramsey, the first mayor of St. Paul and the second governor of Minnesota. Ramsey County is named after him.

While Bishop John Ireland's name might not be quite as familiar, local historians will recognize the founder of Currie, Avoca, Iona, Fulda and Adrian, portrayed by Joey Voss. Voss carried a crosier and wore robes, with a Bible open in front of him, to portray the bishop.

Famous Minnesotan women were in good supply, too. Andrea Fuerstenberg wore a poke bonnet to become "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Allison Vandenbosch wore a boa and signed a photograph to portray Jessica Lange. Lanie Masters played arctic explorer Ann Bancroft.

Nikki Sandhurst used crayons and a stack of hardcover books to become Mary GrandPre, the illustrator of the Harry Potter books.

"My hands are numb from holding a crayon," Sandhurst said, adding she did think it was worth it.

Maddie Kaufman brought cooking supplies and an old cookbook to school to portray Betty Crocker -- a fictional character created by Minnesotan company General Mills.

One of the youngest Minnesotans shown in the museum was Motocross champion Donny Schmit, played by Cole Dierks.

"I thought it would be easier to lie down, but it's not," Dierks said, after spending about an hour propped up against a motorcycle, as if repairing it.