Fall Family Days: Thumb Octagon Barn prepares to host 15,000

Thumb Octagon Barn, August 2016About 15,000 are expected to attend Fall Family Days at Gagetown’s Thumb Octagon Barn — a number that keeps growing annually and is especially encouraging to volunteers like Martin Kubacki.

That’s because Kubacki, chairman of Fall Family Days, said it seems more important now than ever to remember the past. “It’s very important,” Kubacki told The Advertiser. “It’s hard to get young people involved because of their busy schedules.

“We can’t lose this because they need to know how their grandparents did this,” he said. “That’s what we’re facing. We have to get our younger people involved.”

Thumb Octagon Barn, 6948 Richie Road, Gagetown, will host the 21st annual Fall Family Days, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11. During the event attendees can experience a 1900s farm setting.

Kubacki said the event has continually grown.

“We had 300 people,” he said of the first year. This year 15,000 people are expected to attend Fall Family Days, which will utilize roughly 400 volunteers, Kubacki said.

“Why I volunteered to do this, I don’t know,” he said.

An increase of attendees came about in part from him taking on the duties of chairperson and raising awareness of the event and rallying community support for the barn, he said.

But it’s far from a one-man show.

Margaret Sergeant, a Thumb Octagon Barn volunteer and the barn’s quarterly newsletter author, said community support is the most important thing for keeping Fall Family Days going. Beforehand, all that was there to see was the barn, a farmhouse and electrical power house.

“Then with restorations of the house and barn,” she said, “We were able to include new buildings and make the Thumb Agriculture Museum.”

The farmhouse was built in 1922, the barn itself was purchased in 1895 by James and Cora Purdy, and restorations to farm buildings started around 1995, said Sergeant. It is an ongoing process; currently 20 windows on the bottom of the barn have been restored and the other 10 are in the process of being completed. That project will be followed with the 32 windows on the higher levels of the barn.

(Photo by Debanina Seaton) George Wilson, grandson of James and Cora Purdy, the original owners of the Thumb Octagon Barn, 6948 Richie Road, shows the family history on display inside the barn where Family Fun Day will take place. It is expected that 15,000 attendees will come to the barn for the event.
(Photo by Debanina Seaton)
George Wilson, grandson of James and Cora Purdy, the original owners of the Thumb Octagon Barn, 6948 Richie Road, shows the family history on display inside the barn where Family Fun Day will take place. It is expected that 15,000 attendees will come to the barn for the event.

Revenue from the event will go toward continued restoration, including a fresh coat of paint on the barn and restoration of the roof.

Daily gate admission is $5 for those 6 years old and older and free for children 5 and younger.

The event begins each morning with a farmer’s breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. served by the Caro Knights of Columbus at the cost of $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Kids 5 and younger eat free.

An all you can eat fish fry, held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 will be of no charge to children under 5 years old and younger, $5 for children 6 to 12 years of age and $10 for adults.

Other events brought back from last year include: potato digging and broom-making. A popular staple — apple-cider pressing and homemade doughnuts — are also available for attendees.

Kubacki said the most popular events have been hands-on demonstrations like the broom-making and apple-cider pressing.

The theme “Our Wonderful World of Water” will demonstrate the importance of water as a valuable resource.

One of the demonstrations includes drilling a well as it was drilled in the early 1900s.

Frank Franzel, of Mayville-based Franzel Well Drilling, L.L.C., said he is excited about the event. One hundred years ago, it could take up to a week or longer to drill a well, he said. Today it takes only three to four hours.

“It’s a rewarding job,” he said. “It’s good to know where people are going to get their water (in) the next 50 to 100 years.”

This year will also provide a special tribute to the originator of Fall Family Days. Robert Hirn, who was the first chairman, died in October 2015. A tribute will be made at 2:30 p.m. Saturday before the fish fry.

“I miss him a lot, I’ll tell you that,” said Kubacki.

Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at debanina@tcadvertiser.com

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