By Seth Schmidt
The snappy melody of “Washington March” reverberated through the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum Sunday. The flawless piano performance suggested that Scott Joplin had come to life on a concert stage.
But the star performer was actually a vintage player-piano. Jim Julien, who donated the Beckwith piano to the museum, had tickled the ivories solely through two-foot pedals.
“I’m glad that it is here (in the museum) where other people can enjoy it,” said the Garvin man. “It was just sitting in my house.”
The player piano was among the new exhibits unveiled as the Tracy museum opened for its 2017 season Saturday and Sunday. Weekend 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours will continue through the Memorial Day weekend, when a Wednesday through Sunday scheduled begins.
The player-piano is one of many new items being displayed at the museum.
A rare post-World War II International-Harvestor refrigerator can be seen in the 8,000 square-foot pole barn completed last summer on museum site’s south edge. The late 1940s or early 1950s refrigerator was rescued from the former Tracy Masonic Temple building, and scrubbed into sparkling condition by museum volunteer Noreen Forbregd.
Other new displays include a wood-frame studio camera once used by Tracy photographer Don Stassen, a refurbished 1950s Minneapolis Moline tractor given by LeRoy Johnson, and hand-painted dishes donated by the late Duane Peterson’s family.
Billie Jo Lau, Wheels Across the Prairie officer, invites people to come out and see what’s new at the museum. Visitors who haven’t recently toured the museum, she observes, are usually surprised at the number and quality of exhibits, and how much things have changed since their last visit.
This is the Wheel’s museum’s 33rd summer. It’s grand opening was held in June of 1985. From a single building, the museum complex has grown to include a 1915 switch engine, tender car, wooden box car, and caboose and more than a dozen buildings. Historic buildings include St. Mark’s Church, Monroe Township Hall, a restored Chicago & Northwestern Depot, and the District 91 country school.
For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.