The 21st Annual Harvest Festival at the Legacy of the Plains Museum was in full swing Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast by the Gering Kiwanis and plenty of potatoes for the picking.
The museum’s featured crop is potatoes this year and a variety of equipment was at the event to showcase the evolution of picking and processing potatoes.
“The smell of the potatoes and the dirt bring back memories,” said Arturo Zamarripa of Gering. “I used to help my mother fill the bags, as she picked when I was little and then moved onto picking potatoes, myself.”
He was at the event with his daughter Monica and great-grandsons Arturio and Joseph. Zamarripa explained some of the equipment at the event to his grandchildren, from potato sorters to the potato diggers.
“When I was older I used to buck (pick bags up from the field and throw into the back of trucks) the potatoes, into farmers old 49 or 50 Chevys, (he laughs) the trucks could barely make it through the fields sometimes and the bags weighed between 80 to 100lbs,” he said.
The LPM volunteers were out in force in the field where potato diggers were showcased. The museum volunteers showed off mule driven, horse driven and then tractor driven potato diggers.
“We used to pick around four to five acres a day, with 20-25 pickers and three or four buckers,” said Al Kukas, a volunteer at the museum. “It just depended on how long we could go before it (equipment) broke down.”
Dick Kuxhausen another LPM volunteer said everyone helped out including the children. The schools would shut down for a couple of weeks to let the children out to help for the harvest.
“The kids would either help fill the sacks or run and get more sacks when the parents needed them,” he said.
It was hard back-breaking work, where people would make three to five cents a bushel.
“If a guy could pick a hundred bushel he was doing a hell of a job,” Kuxhausen said.
Cindy Ornoff and her sister Lynette Maier also remember their father harvesting potatoes on their farm in Gering. While they were pretty young one of the fondest memories was the family coming together to get the harvest done.
“I remember cutting the potatoes,” Maier said. “Mostly we played with our cousins, while the aunts cut the potatoes for seed, it was fun times.”
Annual Harvest Festival continues tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. with equipment displays, tractor parades, blacksmithing demonstrations, a pedal tractor course, small engine and potato harvesting demonstrations, and the opportunity to pick your own potatoes.
Inside the museum lobby will be the Prairie Fiddlers and the Schlothauer Family will be doing demonstrations on making German sausage at 11 a.m. and food vendors will be available. Admission to the Harvest Festival is $5 per person for ages 10 and older. For those interested in visiting the museum’s exhibit hall, there will be a reduced admission of $8 per adult and $5 per child ages 6 – 18. Maps and schedules will be provided at the gate.
For more information, call Legacy of the Plains Museum at 308- 436-1989.