The air was filled with the smells and sounds of Christmases gone by at Houston County Historical Society's Old Fashioned Christmas last weekend.
“It’s like an open house,” said Houston County Historical Society President Shirley Johnson last Sunday, of the Old Fashioned Christmas event. “Just kind of a time for people to come visit, have coffee and Christmas goodies, and take in the music and new displays.”
The event was held in the society's newly revamped museum in Caledonia, which was decorated with Christmas trees, classic vehicles decked with holiday decor, and various Christmas-themed displays. The Old Fashioned Christmas also featured pedal tractors, live accordion music, a coloring table for children and a variety of Christmas cookies and warm refreshments.
Johnson, who managed to attend both days of the event despite battling bad laryngitis, said the Old Fashioned Christmas is one of the more popular annual events the society puts on. Last year a blizzard prevented some people from attending the event, so Johnson was pleased with the weekend's mild weather.
This was only the second time the Old Fashioned Christmas was held in the new museum addition, Johnson said, which is able to house the bigger car and farm equipment displays.
“We raised over a million dollars to build it,” said Johnson of the museum, which was funded by donations from the community. “That’s good for a little county like this.”
The museum loops from the historic timeline of Houston County, to the permanent Palen Photo Studio display, to an area of rotating exhibits, around to a meeting room and climate controlled storage area. The new building is linked to the society's former facility, which now serves as the research center on the bottom floor.
The former work rooms now hold research supplies and material, while photographs, school and business records and the Minnesota Library all still remain in the original archive room. The former museum space is now an area to conduct research in, with computers, a copier and microfilm readers.
“We have a lot to take care of,” said Johnson of the society’s upgraded space. “Especially for an organization made entirely of volunteers.”
Johnson said around 15-20 volunteers help the society with research and museum upkeep on a regular basis, and are how the society is able to put on events like the Old Fashioned Christmas, and their annual used book sale in March.
“All of our volunteers are passionate about what we do,” said Johnson, who's been with the Historical Society since it reemerged in the early '60s. “It’s for Houston County. It’s preserving Houston County’s history, so that it’s here for generations to come.”
As far as the society's next project, Johnson said its focused on finalizing the details of how Houston County was first settled. According to Johnson, Houston County became a county in 1854, four years before Minnesota became a state.