Historic Chesterfield to host annual Memorial Day celebration

By Rebecca Long Pyper

Not only is Memorial Day in historic Chesterfield the big kickoff for a summer full of history, but it’s also a weekend of activities designed with families in mind.

For years events have been held each summer in Chesterfield, a village between Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs being restored building by building by the Chesterfield Foundation since 1980.

This year festivities start May 23 at a free dance for all ages, held at 8 p.m. in the Amusement Hall. Then on May 25 volunteers have a full day of events scheduled for visitors, starting with the fifth-annual 5K walk/run at 8 a.m. The race sees as many as 100 runners and walkers, and the route starts in the heart of town and winds around and through the town site. Those who register for the Chesterfield run by May 15 are guaranteed a race-day shirt, and registration can be completed online at www.historicchesterfield.org/#!running-back-in-time.

At 10 a.m. May 25 a flag-raising ceremony complete with program and a military group performing taps will take place at the flagpole between the Amusement Hall and the Meeting House. And at 11 a.m. all restored buildings in town open with volunteers on hand to answer questions. A horse-drawn wagon will transport visitors around the town — a good thing since the town site is large enough that walking isn’t the easiest option, said Pearl Mickelsen, Chesterfield board member over scheduling and publicity.

For lunch hamburgers and cheeseburgers will be sold, and guests can also shop the Brick Store for souvenirs like pioneer dolls, aprons, old-fashioned sodas, candy and a blanket depicting nine of the Chesterfield buildings.

At 1 p.m. an auction will be held, complete with items homemade or donated by businesses. The auction is an important part of Chesterfield’s summer season — “this is where we try to raise funds to keep things going,” Mickelsen said, adding that the organization has to raise at least enough money to cover operating expenses for the summer.

Guests can become members of the Chesterfield Foundation, which comes with a membership fee but affords them a newsletter every six months. Also, the foundation has an endowment fund, which began with an initial donation of $100,000 but has grown to $250,000; each year the foundation can use 80 percent of earned interest on new projects in town, Mickelsen said.

One of those projects in the works is a camping area, where water and restrooms will be available for people to stay just outside the town site. Another project is interior work on the Muir-Butterfield house, the first place people see coming into town. The brick home was once the nicest in Chesterfield and the location where important visitors always stayed, Mickelsen said. When doors and windows are in, work inside will begin. “It’s going to take a lot of money to restore, but it’s a gorgeous home,” she said.

Excepting the race and food, Memorial Day weekend activities are all free — though donations are welcomed. But if you ask Mickelsen, the food is worth doling out some cash, especially treats made in the Amusement Hall bakery. “If (visitors) want a pie, they better come quick because they usually disappear,” she said.

In the historic homes kids will try their hands making butter, twisting rope and fashioning prairie-diamond rings. The activities all work together to spark an interest in days gone by, even for the youngest of kids.

“It’s history. We’re right on the Oregon Trail, and they can see different kinds of dwellings. We’ve got everything from a dugout to a nice brick home, so they can see how people lived, what types of things they did,” Mickelsen said. “They’ll learn the history of the area; they’ll learn all about pioneer life.”

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