Jasper County Historical Museum wins ‘golden’ award

The Jasper County Historical Museum is known for preserving and promoting the county’s rich history and on Tuesday, it was recognized in an awards ceremony in Waterloo with a Golden Silo Award for Outstanding Interpretation.

The Golden Silo Awards are presented annually by the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, which includes Jasper County. SSNHA covers the northeastern third of Iowa and stretches from Des Moines to the Quad Cities and encompasses 37 Iowa counties.

SSNHA Trustee Soo Gierman presented the award to Mary Ann Iske, Delores Butler and Linda Perrenoud, who were on hand to accept the award on behalf of the museum, and Gierman spoke highly of the institution and its offerings.

“This year’s recipient exemplifies the power of volunteerism, determination and the process of interpretation. What started out as a project to get rid of an eyesore, quickly turned into a restoration of two windmills,” Gierman said. “During a board meeting discussion of scrapping the old metal windmill and disposing of the headless wooden windmill, someone mentioned how the museum was referred to as ‘that place with the windmill on I-80.’ This gave the same volunteer, who wanted to scrap them, an idea — wouldn’t it be cool to see the windmill again?”

Perrenoud was the volunteer who spoke up at that meeting, and soon, she recruited Iske and Butler to aid her in the task of repairing the windmill and acquiring the funding to do so. The trio wound up applying for, and receiving, a grant through a SSNHA program.

Once the funding was acquired, the windmill was repaired, thanks to the help of an additional volunteer, Gale Harsha, and the museum later launched a new exhibit and program entitled “Winderful Tales of Jasper County.”

This new exhibit chronicles everything from the early days of wind energy powering farms in rural Jasper County up to Newton being home to current wind energy conglomerates Trinity Structural Towers and TPI Composites.

Gierman said this story was a key reason the museum was able to win that award.

“The impact of this relatively untold story has been significant for Newton, Jasper County and the Heritage Area,” she said. “This project is a model of how of a historical society can create relevant programs by connecting their heritage to the modern day story.”

The museum was also nominated for the SSNHA, but lost out to Vesterheim Norwegian — American Museum in Decorah. This, however, did not put a damper on the Golden Silo win and in a post on its Facebook page, the good news was shared:

“Our team worked two years to bring their interpretation of the harnessing of wind power in Jasper County to fruition. Join us in congratulating Linda, Dee and Mary Ann for their inspiration, as well as their hard work.”

The museum will open for the season May 1, and on June 29, it will hold an open house to celebrate its award-winning Winderful Tales program.

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.