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‘Farm to town, life retold’

Heartland Museum holds treasures of the past

-Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Kriss Nelson Melody Lager, president of the board of directors sits at one of her favorite spots: the old fashioned soda fountain on 1950’s street inside the Heartland Museum.

CLARION -Where can you find an original soda fountain, a replica of a 1950s kitchen, a small town garage, teddy bears, a hat collection and tractors all under one roof?

The answer is the Heartland Museum in Clarion. Those displays and several more have been a part of the museum since it opened nearly 20 years ago.

Melody Lager, president of the board of directors for the Heartland Museum, said its inception was a collaboration of local organizations and citizens working together to replace the Clarion Museum that was housed in a smaller, older building downtown.

Lager said in the late 1990s the Wright County Historical Society; Clarion Arts Council; Steve Schutt, teddy bear artist; Larry Maasdam, tractor collector; and Alvina Sellers, the Iowa Hat Lady, began discussing their ideas on how their collections could all be displayed.

“It just worked out very well for them to come together and create something larger that would draw more people. From my understanding, Steve drew out what they were going to build,” she said. “Then Maurice Riley, George Boyington and Terry Evens all spent a lot of time out here building. They did a lot of work.”

One of the more unique tractors in Ag Hall at the Heartland Museum is this 1962 Porsche Diesel from Germany. The tractor is owned by Larry Maasdam of Clarion.

Lager said the Heartland Museum could be considered Clarion’s hidden gem.

For a majority of the museum’s life, Big Bud, the world’s largest tractor, has called it home. Big Bud is expected to leave soon.

“Big Bud has drawn outsiders here,” said Lager. “They will research Big Bud and when they find out he is here they will come here to see him and find out there is so much here. Having him here has worked out really, really well.”

Coming soon to the Heartland Museum will be an outdoor education center. Lager said she anticipates being able to hold a variety of programs outdoors in the near future. The center was made possible with the awarding of two grants: one from the Wright County Charitable Foundation and one from Bayer.

Once people find out the Heartland Museum exists and they visit, Lager said they are usually impressed and leave positive reviews.

A walk back through time would not be complete without a phone booth. Visitors are welcome to sit inside and experience the ways of communication with a rotary dial phone.

Lager said the most commonly heard comment is, “Wow we didn’t know there was this much to see.”

Lager said to plan on at least two hours to visit the museum. It is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, Monday-Saturday. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturdays in September. It is also open by appointment.

“People can call us anytime and if they would like to come visit, we will get somebody here,” she said.

Admission is $12 for adults; $6 for children. That admission fee, Lager said, is largely what they depend on to keep their doors open.

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