AUDUBON — It’s something almost everyone does when visitors are coming: house work to spiff the place up.
In this case the house is the old county home, or poor house, located at Nathaniel Hamlin Park and Museums, just south of Audubon on Highway 71. The visitors will be coming for Fallapalooza, a yearly event showcasing the property and raising funds to help keep it up. And the volunteer, Nicki Wiederstein of the Audubon County Historical Society, is one of many volunteers — current and past — who take care of the place.
While the house and farm it sits on is much older, the park was established there in 1976, and was named Nathaniel Hamlin Park in honor of the first resident in Audubon County.
Some of the first caretakers of the property were descendants of Nathaniel Hamlin and some Audubon area residents — also trace back to Hamlin.
Wiederstein and other members of the Historical Society have been working on the property, getting ready for Fallapalooza.
She explained that the big brick home has been in need of tuckpointing. Two of the sides of the building have been completed, with two more to go, hopefully this fall. “We have got a mason lined up for this fall, hopefully he can make it,” she said.
So far, $40,000 has been spent on tuckpointing, and another $40,000 is needed to complete the job and repair porches on the building and there is always something else to work on. For example, “We also need new electrical badly,” she said.
Wiederstein has been working with a group of volunteers. Three new members were added recently, but Wiederstein said Judy Olson, Janet Collins, Colleen Madsen, Rhonda Olsen and Chris Jensen had been hard at work. “We just have fun,” Wiederstein said.
Besides the tuckpointing and planned porch work, Wiederstein said they had been working on the dining room. “We took everything down, we gutted it.”
The process revealed a unique thing about the house. “The walls are not stud walls,” she said, “They are brick, from the floor up to the attic. I think it’s unusual.”
It also makes the old building more sturdy. “There are some framed walls, to cut bigger rooms in half,” she said.
One of the other things they have been working is finishing up work on the Victorian room.
“It used to be a ward, with several beds,” she said. Now it has Eastlake furniture. Another room is made up to show what a Victorian bedroom would have looked like. “I just finished the painting,” she said, “so I’m really tired.”
The preparations are all to make sure the house is ready for visitors on Sunday, Sept. 15, the big fund-raiser for the Historical Society and the Nathaniel Hamlin Park and Museums.
There will, of course, be tours of the house, but other historic buildings on the site will also be open.
The property is home to a small group of elk, which will be available for viewing and feeding. Wiederstein said there is a yearling and new baby elk in addition to the adults this year.
Fallapalooza will also offer a variety of vendors — almost twice as many as last year — along with food, activities and more. It will be held on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We have the coolest vendors coming,” she said, adding they included a Geode dealer, artists, jewelry makers, even someone bringing Native American art.
Last year the event had 17 vendors — Wiederstein is coordinating vendors as well — and said there were already 30 planning on coming this year.
Danish Countryside Vines and Wines will be on hand, along with The Broadway 312, with sweets and there will be kettlekorn.
The board is heading up the food for the event, she said. “Dennis Carter is heading up the food. We are serving it, we need to capture all the income we can,” she said.
Fallapalooza isn’t the only event held at the park, earlier this year a Bird and Bees event was held, groups have come out to visit, like school groups, Red Hat groups and the Atlantic Questers, and the meeting hall on the site has been rented out.
“It’s rented out for $100,” she said, for family gatherings, reunions, receptions and more. The unique location, a former working farm, makes it a unique spot for a party.
Visitors can also walk trails through the wooded part of the property. “We’re opening up more trails,” Wiederstein said, for things like snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter and hiking other parts of the year.
Wiederstein noted that many people had been generous with their time and donated money to help keep up the property.
Volunteers and helpers range in age from young to young at heart.
“Tyler Tessman has been moving the lawn and weed-eating,” she said, adding he’s a very busy young man — the president of the local FFA and a junior in high school.
“And Archie Anderson is still out there, and he’s 92.”
Dina Gibbons, the daughter of Doug and Joyce Taggart in Audubon, has been helping to write grants and working with publicity, Wiederstein said.
Using social media along with traditional means to spread the word about the event has helped.
While they only expected about 100 people at last year’s Fallapalooza, Wiederstein said, “I got busy and posted about it and 400 people showed up.
Overall, though, Wiederstein thought she better not try naming all of the many helpers — “I’d never get them all,” she said, and she’d hate to leave someone out.
And she’s hoping the event will raise interest and that some more new volunteers will come out of it.
“Our goal is to raise funds,” she said, “But also to bring in the next generation. We can carry on for now,” but she would love to see young people get interested to carry on into the future.