History Alive! presents new pop-up plays later this month

Fred Bergey (Aiden Lieb), a 1869 resident of Lanesboro, participated in Buffalo Bill’s (Richard Niez) local shows with Dr. Frank Powell.

This September, History Alive! Pop-up Plays will feature “Founding Lanesboro 1869” in honor of the 150th anniversary of Lanesboro and other Minnesota towns experiencing their own 150th birthdays. It is the fifth year of the annual Pop-up Plays which boast “Stories of Lanesboro on the streets of Lanesboro” as their motto. All plays use original scripts by Lanesboro writer Jane Peck, also artistic director of the productions.

A brass band, a stagecoach, a zany traveling “medicine” show, and a mini-Wild West scene with Buffalo Bill will fill the streets and Sons of Norway Hall of Lanesboro the last weekends of September!

The year 1869 was a time when many small towns in Minnesota were beginning. Audiences will meet some of the people these towns share: immigrant farm families like the Belles, displaced Native Americans like the Winneshiek family, land investors like James Thompson, Civil War veterans, visiting speakers like Frederick Douglass and early suffragists like Elizabeth Stanton, and visiting snake oil charlatans from Chicago! Dakota and Hochunk communities had been banished from Minnesota by 1869, but not from this show! Telling this story will involve over 40 performers and countless behind-the scene-volunteers.

Guest performers and musicians include native actors Larry Yazzie and Sean Sokkala, Irish fiddler and jigger Danielle Enblom, hardanger fiddler Drue Fergison, singers Sister Luv, banjo player David Anderson and brass band players from across southeastern Minnesota!

Southeastern Minnesota had a prominent place in Minnesota in 1869. It was the most populous area of the state at that time, and thus attracted state and national attention (good and bad) that was later reserved for the Twin Cities area. It was a tumultuous time. The country was recovering from the Civil War, the Dakota War, adjusting to newly freed slaves, woman suffrage fervor, and westward expansion.

Playwright Peck has researched the era from 1869 Lanesboro newspapers with their colorful accounts, as well as countless character obituaries and photos, all available at the Lanesboro History Museum.

Families represented from 1869 include the Bergeys, the Winneshieks (Wisconsin), the Grignons (Trempealeau), the Stevens (Rushford), Burger Stearns (Rochester/Duluth), The Knutson Belles, the Mahoneys, the James Thompsons, the Enrights, the Scanlans, as well as members of the Union Prairie Church, all originally of the Lanesboro area.

“Founding Lanesboro 1869” will be presented in the streets of Lanesboro on two weekends this year: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 22, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, with two shows being presented each day. The first will begin at 1 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m. The one-and-a-half-hour walking tours (two blocks) to the play locations begin at the Lanesboro Sons of Norway Hall at 200 Parkway Ave. So. Handicapped audience members can easily view the first scene indoors and outdoor scenes are accessible.

All are invited to this free event, with donations suggested at the door (cash or check please). History Alive Lanesboro, a nonprofit organization, is producing the event with the goal of not only entertaining, but sharing important stories of a mutual past and heritage families with other residents and visitors. For further info contact Jane Peck at revels@janepeck.com.

This activity made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council and a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.