The coming weekend brings an event from the Lindsborg Landmark Concert Series on Saturday at Bethany College – just as the first day of another event, the annual Millfest, winds down in south Lindsborg.
The Concert and Millfest arrive on the heels of last weekend’s Lindsborg in Bloom, which wound out the Messiah Festival, an eight-day April extravaganza that lasted nearly a month.
The 121st Midwest Art Exhibition at the Sandzén Gallery, which opened at the end of March, will continue through May 26. And much is planned on Saturday, May 18, when the Smoky Valley Historical Association invites the community to Coronado Heights to celebrate the landmark’s 150th anniversary.
And graduation – commencement – ceremonies all around, pageants of achievement and pride, the flow of expectation and hope.
These are among numerous plans. A lot more is likely to happen in the few weeks before the Midsummer Festival hits in June, and as Lindsborg’s 150th anniversary celebration kicks up the pace heading into July 4.
A person bored in this community needs professional help.
Back to this weekend: At 4 p.m. on May 4 The Landmark Concert Series will present an interactive event for young, old and in-between at Presser Hall on the Bethany College campus. The concert will feature the Bethany College and Lindsborg Community Orchestras with an aura of surprise and mystique. We are offered the loud hint that Star Wars costumes are encouraged.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau advises, “After the concert, follow the light side to Swensson Park for kids’ activities, science experiments and hot dogs!”
Around and beyond the concert is Millfest, a long celebrated annual festival of Smoky Valley heritage. This is a kind of time-travel into history, much of it close-up or hands-on. It’s a look at how the earliest settlers managed a life here, how they set the footings for their community.
Millfest is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 4 at Heritage Square and the Old Mill Museum, and continues from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5. There will be food, live music, carriage rides, toys, games, demonstrations, exhibits and more.
Central to the festival is a high red brick edifice with great block letters announcing the Smoky Valley Roller Mills just south of the Museum. Ten years ago this spring, the Roller Mills were among the finalists in competition for the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s 8 Wonders of Kansas History. Although the Mills did not make the state’s elite eight, their status is firm in the history of Kansas and Kansas agriculture.
The Roller Mills were built in 1898 by owner Theo Teichgraeber to replace equipment that had burned in 1897. Here are the oldest Roller Mills standing in Kansas and the only mill with all its original equipment in place. It has been long preserved and fully restored to operating condition, capable of producing flour at any time.
Museum director Lorna Nelson has noted that the place is peerless: “This mill represents the transition to modern milling (the change from grinding with stones to grinding with corrugated chilled iron rolls) in Kansas and the United States. This transition took place very quickly in our state,” she wrote when the building was an 8 Wonders finalist.
“The mills in Kansas played a large role in securing Kansas’s place as a leading producer of flour as well as wheat,” Nelson wrote. “Millers in central Kansas were among the earliest to endorse hard winter wheat flour. This mill reflects the craftsmanship and technologies of the late 19th century that continued into the 20th century. The steps for producing flour have not changed.
“…At the time this mill was built, almost 500 mills were in operation across the state. Now there are about a dozen. Few historic mills have survived. The Smoky Valley Roller Mills is a rare exception.”
Millfest will offer Roller Mills tours, a thrill not to be missed. The festival experience is at base about the people who settled here and had hard lives, but with a profound faith in promise for the next generation.
They believed in each other, and in a community that would define them and connect them. For one small example, Välkommen Trail, the city’s exquisite hike and bike trail, lies on abandoned rail beds of the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. The town grew because of the rails and the commerce that moved on them. One leg of the Trail touches Riverside Park, which touches Heritage Square, a big part of Millfest … and so on.
It may seem quaint, the festival’s rope-making, the steam engines, the great, brutal wood saws, the one-room schoolhouse with slates and chalk, the simple toys, but it’s about how people lived in the early days, the food they ate, the school rooms they sat in, the games they played, the faith that held them through often tortuous conditions.
Imagine life in a mud hut or a dugout along the river. Imagine the dedication and perseverance of those ancestors. Imagine, even, the love that kept those superb craftsmen at work on the Roller Mills. The gleaming wood of the mill’s interior reflects the talent of the era and the care lavished on the mill during restoration. The sights and sounds of the mill operating never fail to excite, never fail to leave people in wonder. Settle in at Millfest. The history is well worth the time.