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Thousands enjoy old-time experiences at Pioneer Days

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TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A horse-drawn buggy is seen at the Steinbach Pioneer Days at the Steinbach Mennonite Heritage Village, Sunday.

The threat of rain didn't stop people from exploring their province's roots at the annual Pioneer Days in Steinbach on Sunday.

The festival, which runs August 2 -5 at the Mennonite Heritage Village near Steinbach, explores the history of the Mennonite settlers who came to Steinbach in the 19th century, executive director Barry Dyck said.

"We try to keep alive some of the cultural experiences that our forbearers had and some of the culture that they developed," Dyck said.

Each year visitors can see the authentic 19th-century buildings, tractors and machines, as well as learn how bread was baked back then, how wool was spun and how tools were made.

The centrepiece of the festival is the windmill that stands in the middle of the grounds, Dyck said. Out of all the attractions, he said the windmill always gets the most visitors, and gives the best experience.

"You really have to be inside it when it's grinding grain and flour to really get the feel of it, feel the dust in your nostrils," Dyck said.

The windmill is also part of the festival's theme this year, which is wind power. In addition to the mill the festival also has a exhibit on wind power throughout history, as well as a "portable wind mill" which Dyck said was carried from field to field, wherever needed. The theme works with the festival because wind power is as much an issue now as it was an issue back then, Dyck said.

The festival is expecting around 6,000 visitors, and Dyck said he sees many people from the surrounding area and Winnipeg, but also from as far as China.

Angela Gregory, who was at the festival with her husband, father and son, said she came out to the festival from Winnipeg because of the Mennonite connection she shares with the area.

"I find it is important to keep (the culture) alive, to bring the culture to the public ... we just really enjoy the place" she said.

Getting the Mennonite stories out to the public is also important for Dyck, who said that it was a large part of why the festival is put on every year.

"Ultimately we're here as a teaching organization. We want to teach people, young and old alike, about our stories, the Mennonite stories, and of course this is one way to get people here," Dyck said.

"We want to keep those stories alive."

The festival continues until Monday, and is open 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day.

History

Updated on Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 6:05 PM CDT: adds slideshow

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