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Hoe-Down sparks fundraising effort for Rock County Historical Society

Julie buntjer/Daily Globe Rock County Historical Society President Betty Mann (left) and Hoe-Down Committee chairperson Jane Wildung-Lanphere pose outside the 1911-era Floral Hall on the Rock County Fairgrounds. The hope is to raise enough money to move the Rock County Museum to the Floral Hall, following a renovation and expansion of the building.

LUVERNE -- A new event at Buffalo Days in Luverne on Sunday helped kick-start the fundraising efforts for the relocation of the Rock County Historical Society.

With fiddle music, square dancing and a Dutch oven dinner at the Rock County Fairgrounds, attendees of the first-ever Buffalo Days Hoe-Down raised approximately $1,700 toward the project.

Late last week, historical society president Betty Mann and Hoe-Down committee chairperson Jane Wildung-Lanphere talked about plans to renovate the Floral Hall on the fairground property in Luverne and make it the new home for the Rock County Museum.

The museum has been housed in the former Masonic Temple in Luverne since 1996, but it is cramped for space and is not handicap-accessible.

"We have four buildings here already," said Mann of the growing collection of museum items housed in four buildings on the fairgrounds. There is the Fitzer barn, the Ordung building, a summer kitchen and a one-room school house that is a replica of the first school in Rock County.

"Having our location here, then we would be able to open those buildings anytime during the year," Mann said. "Right now, they only get opened the four days out of the year (during the county fair) because we're too far away -- it's inconvenient."

Since talks first began a year ago, the Rock County Fair board was awarded a $50,000 grant from the state's arts and cultural heritage fund (legacy amendment) to renovate the 1911-era Floral Hall.

On Thursday, a second application for legacy funding was dropped in the mail -- this time by the Rock County Historical Society. Its request is for $150,000, which would help to fund construction of an addition on the south end of Floral Hall.

"We would like to repeat the octagon (area) with a cupola on top ... so it doesn't take away from the structure's looks," Mann said.

If the historical society is awarded a grant this fall, construction would begin next year.

"It's exciting -- it's wonderful if it can happen," said Lanphere. "What a cool building to have an office in ... and then you have such a nice campus to give tours.

"The school kids can come down for an outing and go through the barn, go through the summer kitchen -- the teacher can teach a class in the one-room school -- that's fun to have the living history the kids can be a part of," she added. "Maybe some day you could take a little piece of ground out here and have the kids plant with the old tools."

"There's unending possibilities," said Mann. "The fair board is excited about it, too -- it will have the fairgrounds used more than just during the fair."

Lanphere said the planning taking place between the fair board and the historical society is "another example of the cooperation" of local organizations.

"(They found) a way to come together to address some challenges ... and do so creatively by working together -- working toward the greater good and long-term good," she said.

If the historical society receives a legacy grant from the state, it would spark off additional fundraising efforts to help cover the remaining costs.

The addition to Floral Hall would house the restrooms, office, research area and storage, with the original structure housing an exhibit of life on the prairie.

The larger space will also make it possible to feature all nine communities of Rock County and allow the historical society to plan some short-term exhibits to highlight special events or persons from Rock County.

With the move, all of the military items currently in the Rock County Historical Society would be transferred to the Herreid Military Museum (the former Rock County Jail) on the Courthouse Square in Luverne.

"The historical things in Luverne are really important to draw the people here," said Mann.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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