Get taste of Iola’s rich history at Strawberry Fest
More than a century ago the area that today is known as Iola once housed a princess, the daughter of an Indian chief related to the chief for whom Waupaca County is named.
The first sawmill, post office and Methodist Church rose before the village was formally incorporated in 1892. The Norwegian settlers, for whom the area is richly known, began immigrating to the land about 30 years before that.
These are just a few tidbits of history that make up the wealth of tradition and heritage of Iola. And the Iola Historical Society aims to provide even more to visitors at the 32nd annual Strawberry Fest, which along with strawberries will feature the Historic Iola Village buildings.
Strawberry Fest will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 26, at the Iola Historical Society’s Village Complex on Depot Street just west of downtown Iola. Admission to the event is free, although goodwill donations will be accepted.
“It’s a chance for the Iola Historical Society to create a community event which serves several purposes,” said Lee Halverson, vice president of the Historical Society.
“It’s a chance to gather … a chance to bring that special item to be appraised by experts … where locals can show off and sell items they have home-made,” he said. “But to me, one of the best reasons to host this event is to get people on our grounds and into our buildings to show the amazing history we have in the Iola area.”
During the festival, local crafters will also show off their handiwork, and an Antiques Appraisal Fair will provide experts on a wide range of collectibles to review and assess the value of people’s attic and basement treasures.
Strawberries will be the featured food item of the day; food available for purchase includes strawberry shortcake – homemade – with ice cream or Cool Whip for $4; pulled pork sandwiches, $3; and hot dogs, $2.50. Coffee, water and assorted sodas will be available. The food offerings will be in the historical society’s Machine Shed at 222 Depot St.
All proceeds from the event go to benefit restorations of the historic Iola and Northern Railroad Depot, a vintage caboose, and other Iola Historical Society projects.
Historic building tours
A village of a little under 1,300 people, Iola is rich in the natural beauties of wildlife, forestry and lakeshores, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors will be able to get a glimpse into such a life in the 1930s log cabin which was used by hunters in the area.
Other historical village buildings also will be available for tours, including a replica of a local one-room schoolhouse; a replica of Iola’s original fire station containing Iola’s vintage first three firefighting vehicles; the original Helvetia Town Hall; The Machine Shed, which is filled with vintage farm and manufacturing equipment, along with the recently acquired Anderson Machine Shop equipment; and the historical society’s newly remodeled and expanded museum.
Hosts will be at each building to talk about their historic significance and answer any questions.
The newly acquired caboose and the original Iola and Northern Railway depot are undergoing restoration and will not be available during tours.
Among the recently unveiled new exhibits at the museum will be:
* The Bert Stromberg violin collection. Stromberg was a former constable of Iola who made and sold violins in the area in the mid-20th century. The collection includes violins in various stages of production plus Stromberg’s original violin-making tools.
* The Lee Nelson exhibit. A decorated World War II veteran from Iola who flew 31 bombing missions in a B-17 “Flying Fortress” over Germany and German-occupied France. Nelson was also an accomplished woodcarver, and his carvings are also on display.
* R.I. Anderson machine shop: Features the original equipment used by Anderson, who built, among other things, brass fittings for Iola’s original fire engines (also on display at the replica firehouse). The equipment is located in a replica building inside the society’s Machine Shed, and is still in working condition. Originally located on State Street, the machine shop’s machinery was moved by R.I.’s descendants, first to southern Wisconsin, then to Minnesota before finding its way back to Iola – just a half-mile from its original location.
Attendees are also encouraged to walk on the nearby Iola River Walk along the Little Wolf River and see the historic Iola Mills, built in 1860.
The Iola Historical Society’s village is open on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. in June, July and August.
Antique Appraisal Fair
Area residents can bring items from their attics and basements for evaluation and pricing information to a wide-ranging group of experts at the Antiques Appraisal Fair. Cost is $3 per item or $5 for three items, with all proceeds benefiting the Iola Historical Society.
Antiques and collectibles appraisers include experts on general antiques, books, comics and popular-culture collectibles, sports collectibles, military items and medals, toys, coins and paper money.
A craft show will also be held on the grounds. Crafters are featuring Norwegian rosemaling, purses, jams and jellies, jewelry, photography, quilts, wood carvings, original paintings, sock monkeys, candles, maple syrup and candy, among other items.
For more information, go to the Society’s website at www.iolahistoricalsociety.org or visit the Iola-Scandinavia Chamber’s website at www.ischamber.org.