HENDERSON — Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park hosted a morning day camp filled with learning and fun.
The day camp – “From Russia to America” – took participants on an interactive journey telling the story of Henderson’s Mennonite heritage. Kids wore old-fashioned Mennonite garb, and even carried heavy suitcases on their journey. Stations around the park represented each major leap the immigrants took. Volunteers shared the story of Henderson’s Mennonite history, as related to each stop. At one station the kids imagined they were on a ship, complete with zwieback. According to Wikipedia, traditional Russian zwieback is a yeast roll formed from two pieces of dough. Zwieback are pulled apart when eaten. “Placing the two balls of dough one on top of the other so that the top one does not fall off during the baking process is part of the art and challenge that must be mastered by the baker.”
A “train ride” in a rail care contemporary to the period was also popular. Afterwards two volunteers portrayed men trying to get the kids to “settle” in their state (the kids chose Nebraska).
One of the last stops was Heritage Park’s replica the original Immigrant House built. The house was built by the Burlington Railroad, and housed the early Henderson area Mennonite settlers. Inside the house were items that settlers would use in everyday life, from old-fashioned clothing to a century-old German Bible.
Once the campers finished exploring the Immigrant House, they sat down to listen to a story. Volunteer and Heritage Park board member Suzanne Ratzlaff read “Apples for Immigrants,” a true story written and illustrated by Henderson natives.
The attendance was down this year, but Ratzlaff said things still went well. “The camp went so smoothly,” she said. Ratzlaff said the success of “From Russia to America” is based on Heritage Park volunteers. “It takes a lot of people to do this,” she said. “It really takes a village to keep our park going. People are so gracious.”