On Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, the Kinnickinnic Historical Association will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Kinnickinnic Historic Church with a two-day event.
"Celebrating the 150th anniversary goes beyond the celebration of the building itself. It is the celebration for all the people in the community who cared enough to get that church and maintain it for all these years," said KHA president Amy Thurston. "These were very hardworking people and I'd like to acknowledge those people."
The church, built in 1868, was originally home to the Methodist congregation. Eventually, the church was shared by the Methodists and the Congregationalists before becoming an all Congregational church. The building was functional until 1951 when a new church was built in River Falls.
"It is a beautiful church .... and it is unique that it is divided into two parts, the men and the women's side, so you don't really walk down a center isle. Other than the organ, there is a lot of old, original furniture that people can look at," said KHA secretary Ellen Rider.
In the 1960s, when it appeared that someone wanted to purchase the church to make it into a residence, the community came together to prevent the sale. The group of concerned citizens then became the Kinnickinnic Historical Association, which has maintained the church ever since.
"A lot of hard work has gone into maintaining the little church. They have had an annual ice cream social for many years as the primary fundraiser for the upkeep of the church," Thurston said. "Then, as the church needed more work to be done — including painting the interior and replacing the roof of the church — appeals were made more modernly, like GoFundMe.com, to come up with the funds."
The church is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places as of 2000. It is still used as a venue for weddings and family reunions.
In preparation for the 150th anniversary, the exterior was painted and the foundation was tuckpointed.
The group just had another successful ice cream social, which has become a community event where neighbors and friends get together to catch up and support the church.
"When we planned the celebration, we decided to distinguish the two main aspects of the church: the historical aspect, which will be on Saturday, and a more religious, community focus on Sunday," said Rider.
Saturday will feature a program with historical readings, a time-period appropriate sing-a-long and a presentation about American humorist Edgar Bill Nye by Mike Yell — who often spoke and practiced in the church — starting at 1 p.m. The program will be followed by light refreshments and a cemetery tour, which will run from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday and from 4-5 p.m. Sunday, half an hour earlier than previously announced. The cemetery tour will be led by co-chair Julianne Bartos.
"The cemetery tour will focus on the connection of the cemetery to the church — which are not adjoining — the history of the cemetery and the importance of the cemetery in our community," Rider said.
Sunday will feature a commemorative Sunday service, from 1-2 p.m., led by Dan Brook; readings by local people; a photograph to celebrate the 150th anniversary, from 2-2:15 p.m.; historic games for children, cake and ice cream and a barbershop quartet (Summertime Quartet) will run from 2:15-3:30 p.m. The raffle drawing will start at 3:30 p.m. and will feature baskets highlighting community members and local businesses.
In addition to all of the activities going on over the two days, the KHA will also be selling commemorative pins and magnets, as well as holding sign-ups to become members of the organization.