By JOE SUTTER
POCAHONTAS COUNTY - The Wiegert Prairie Fall Festival is a 29-year-old celebration of 140 years of heritage.
All day Sunday, visitors could see demonstrations of spinning, weaving, quilting, and corn hand-shelling that would have been the normal way to do things 100 years ago.
Randy Koenig of Sioux Rapids was there with his Percheron horse team, to help dig up potatoes the old-fashioned way. Koenig said he does several events like this a year.
"It's a nice shady place," he said of the farmstead. "They've got a lot of history here. My wife was looking at their history table and she found her own picture."
Rhonda Koenig's family had lived in the area when she was a little girl, but she didn't remember the picture being taken.
Chris Reese of Laurens, with his sister Martha Reese of Storm Lake, and granddaughter Tiffani Reese of Laurens.
It was the first time the family had been there. "I was going to come for years, but I never did it," Chris Reese said.
Now that they finally made it, they found it was a lot of fun.
"I liked going on the prairie ride with the horses," Tiffani Reese said. "I got to drive the horses. I liked, they're making rope over there. And churning butter. Their butter is good."
She also managed to grab one of the potatoes the horse team dug up.
A team of Haflinger horses owned by Dave and Sue Glienke was giving rides through the prairie in a wooden covered wagon built by the Glienkes.
"I just always wanted to do something with horses ever since I was a kid," Dave Glienke said. "We always rode horses, and then we went into doing the team about five years ago."
"We mow hay with them, and we've planted sweet corn," Sue Glienke said. "Last spring they planted 750 pounds of potatoes."
The festival is "just to remember our heritage and show our kids, this is how our grandparents used to do it, back in a time when they had animals on the farm," said Corinne Peterson, naturalist with the Pocahontas County Conservation Board.
The board has owned the farmstead since the 1980s, when it was passed on to them from a family of German immigrants who settled there in the 1860s.
Even into the modern era, "they never had electricity, they never had a telephone," Peterson said. "They lived simply and farmed with horses. They never plowed the prairie."
That means Wiegert Prairie is one of the biggest virgin prairie areas in Iowa.
Although she said the prairie doesn't look as good this year because of the drought, it will bounce back again next year.
"Some years the bluestem was 8 feet tall, and so thick you couldn't see once you got out there," she said. "That the wonder of the prairie. It will survive."