Party like it was 1869 at the Oliver Kelley Farm on Oct. 19

by Jim Boyle


If you’re willing to take a step back in time and get your hands dirty, it’s easy to see and feel what it was like to live and work on an 1860s farm while visiting the Oliver H. Kelley Farm.

If you’re visiting the living history farm on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 19, you’ll get a sense of what it was like to party like it was 1869.

The Oliver Hudson Kelley Grange, the newest grange in the country, is hosting “A Full Moon Barn Raising.”

Organizers are promoting it as a way to enjoy “all of the celebration” and “none of the work.”

Members of the new grange, who call the Oliver Kelley Farm their spiritual home and the Richfield Historical Society a second home, are doing all of the work to help lift this upstart group to new heights.

The group, with an average age of 35 compared to traditional granges that come in at an average age of about 70, has three goals. There are only six granges in the state. There used to be 1,600.

“The Oliver Hudson Kelley Grange’s mission supports agricultural history and practice through education, community service and social engagement,” said T.J. Mulaskee, a cultural historian for the Minnesota Historical Society who also heads up the new grange.

The barn raising will be the group’s biggest event since becoming officially chartered in November 2012.

Julie Johnson and the No Accounts band will headline the event that will run from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Oliver Kelley Farm, located at 15788 Highway 10 in Elk River.

The event, for adults 18 years old and up, will include a pickle smorgasbord, a nocturnal creatures full moon walk, a bonfire with marshmallows and talks about history and a virtual barn raising. The cost is $10 and there will be door prizes for the first 500 guests, gifts from Caribou Coffee and Barnes and Noble, a silent auction, local artists and a live auction of baked goods.

Full Moon Barn Raising is slated for Oct. 19.
Full Moon Barn Raising is slated for Oct. 19.

Disc jockey Tom Sullivan of The Party Sound will set up so people can celebrate in front of the oldest barn in Minnesota.

The new grange hopes to raise funds to do more educational programming and community service. So far, the group has hosted two town ball games in the Handke Pit and it sponsors the edible museum that speaks to the history of crops and feeds the interests of modern-day backyard farmers.

The group is also developing another program on diversity in food color and hopes to partner with farmers markets in the future.

Its big push right now is establishing its 501(c)(3) status.

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