Wakanda Park

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Maria G

Upon arriving at the Dunn County Heritage Museum I realized my expectations were set too high. I pictured a big brick building composed of crisp, clean edges and lines with its knowledge and history waiting to be discovered. Instead our big yellow school bus, filled with hot and complaining freshmen, rolled up to a green shed that emanated something besides knowledge. I went to elementary school. I know and am fully aware that we are “not to judge books by their covers,” but I was judging. My heart sank and was immediately aware that my experience at the Dunn County Heritage Museum would be less than satisfying.

Yet something happened as I stepped through the front doors. Emotion, history, and community rushed over me and filled me with a sense of home. It felt as though Menomonie’s, and furthermore Dunn County’s, history flooded the space with light and passion. Although this could have been coming from the museum’s curator, Frank Kennet, who enlightened us with Menomonie’s past by showing us the museum and giving us a tour that would ultimately affirm what elementary teachers everywhere are trying to ingrain in adolescent minds. The tour was inspiring. The history was profound. The exhibits were versatile. The artifacts were raw. The space was inviting. The experience was unforgettable.

I gained a lot from visiting Wakanda Park. From geeks to foot x-ray machines to bank robberies to hand-pump vacuum cleaners I learned the importance of knowing your history and appreciating your heritage. However the greatest lesson that Dunn County Heritage Museum provided me is never judge a book by its cover… or you might miss out on a great steamboat.

Jacqueline G.

Visiting the Dunn County Historical Society Museum and the Indian mounds in Wakanda Park was a rewarding and educational experience. We were able to look back in time and learn the history of Menomonie, what industries shaped the town, and the famous events that took place. Wakanda Park contributes in creating a sense of community by providing the knowledge of Menomonie’s history. Knowing its history is important in order to understand the current state of Menomonie and the future. The industries of logging and brick work formed the basis of the economy in Menomonie and contributed to the growth of the town. Glancing down Main Street in downtown Menomonie, I now know that many of the buildings still standing today were made with the red clay bricks made in the town brick factory a hundred years ago. Now that I know more about Menomonie history, I’m looking forward to bringing my family and friends to Wakanda Park to share the rich history. Different to my hometown of St. Michael, Minnesota, St. Michael unfortunately does not have a museum where we can be provided with the information pertaining to the history of our town. I am glad to now be a part of the close knit community of Menomonie.

Hanna G.

For Honors Orientation, I was assigned to group four, which visited the Russel J. Rassbach Heritage Museum and Wakanda Park. Initially, I was expecting a tedious tour of some not-so-exciting places in Menomonie; however, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our destination.

The Russel J. Rassbach Heritage Museum is quite similar to the museum in my hometown (Eau Claire, WI), in the way that it presents itself: Plain on the outside, amazing history and artifacts within. When I stepped off the school bus, I took one look at the building and thought, Oh no. One of these dinky local museums that have nothing to show for. This is going to be a long afternoon. However, as soon as I walked inside with my group, I knew I was in for a treat.

The museum is lovely, presenting itself in a home-y, cozy manner when you walk in. As you make your way through the museum, you can see all sorts of things one wouldn’t expect to see in a small-town museum. I was really impressed with the collection! There were many artifacts that caught my attention, including but not limited to: a highly radioactive shoe x-ray machine, a Civil War POW’s mess hall plate, a book about swordplay, a collection of antique cars, displays of what a Victorian home might look like and much more.

Usually, when listening to a speaker, my mind starts to wander off from the lecture. This was not the case when I listened to our group guide/historian, Dr. Kennett. He really knew his stuff on the history of Menomonie, and about each of the museum’s artifacts. He provided us with a history lesson of how the town came to be, and while hearing about Menomonie’s logging, brick-making, and plastics past might sound fairly boring, Dr. Kennett made it quite interesting by including interesting and/or little known fun facts about the city. For instance, he told us about a bank shootout back in the day that involved some high profile criminals from the cities. He said that not long after, the bank was closed and bulldozed, and people started finding remnants from the crime scene, including bullets and pistols. Dr. Kennett also noted that the bank stood where the parking lot for the local Burger King is today (I found it quite sad that the city chose not to preserve a building with so much history).

After the museum, Dr. Kennett took our group outside and led us to Wakanda Park to see some rare Indian burial mounds. We walked all the way across the beautiful park to the secluded area where the mounds were. In all honesty, the mounds weren’t much to look at, being two miniature hills next to each other, one with a commemorative stone on the top. What WAS intriguing however is the mystery behind them, as Dr. Kennett said he nor any of the other local historian know which group of Indians created them, but he estimates that the mounds are approximately 800 years old! I was blown away by that fact, as land is always changing and one wouldn’t expect a pile of dirt to last that long!

After visiting the mounds, Dr. Kennett had our group pose for a picture with them, and then we headed back to the museum to catch the bus. I left the museum and park feeling full of knowledge. While I thought I knew a lot about Menomonie since I live relatively close to the city, nearly everything Dr. Kennett talked about was new to me! And all of the information was fascinating! Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and there were several artifacts I didn’t have the opportunity to observe, so needless to say, I’ll be visiting again soon!

Emmitt F.

Today we visited the Dunn County Heritage Museum at Wakanda Park. The museum has two sections, however one is still under work. This area contributes to the community by giving the residence a place to learn about local history. in one of the rooms at this museum, visitors can learn about the Menomonie bank robbery which is a famous event in the city’s history. I may use this museum and park for relaxing and learning about the local history.  Within the museum, many artifacts can be found, ranging from vintage cars, to civil war pieces. Rare artifacts, such as feathers from the Eagle, Old Abe, can be found on display. I found these very interesting. I also thought the steam boat and hand pump vacuum cleaner were neat. A short walk from the museum across Wakanda, 2 Indian burial mounds can be found. The area is scenic and the mounds are interesting to observe. Overall this is a nice place that would be fun to visit and I would recommend to a friend.

Nick G.

The Dunn County Historical Museum gives a great view into Menomonie’s past.  The Indian artifacts, Kraft State Bank Robbery (which apparently everyone in town was involved in), old-style (but still running!) cars, and various past occupational exhibits that the award winning museum displays do a great job of giving insight to the cultures that have lived here.

Wakanda Park is a great place for the community to get together. Among its features are a Frisbee golf course, eating areas, beautiful trees, baseball and softball diamonds, and a waterpark (because the lake is too green). The thing I like most about the area is that it reminds me of Plamann Park, which was basically an extension of my backyard. The mounds, though small compared to others I’ve visited, serve as a legacy of a past culture.

Noah F.

The Dunn County Historical Society was truly something all UW Stout students should get a chance to visit. Not only does the museum give interesting information about the beginnings and origins of Menomonie and UW Stout, but it provides a more detailed look into the lifestyle of the previous generations. For example, I believe the shoe store X-ray had the best story tied to it. Kids would come to the shoe store to use this device to see how well a shoe fitted by locating the bones in their foot. Each session would deal a quarter of the radiation needed to cause illness. Although this is not the ideal memory to bring back to the present, it certainly is worth bringing up. Just because we do things we regret does not mean we should forget them; we still need to learn from them. This is why museums exist: to remember the past and learn how to act. Radiation was not a problem in the past because of the lack of information. We learned from it and understood our mistakes. That’s why I think the Dunn County Historical Museum is important: it shows the minor mistakes history has made and shows how far we have come.

Tyler F.

I learned that Menomonie is full of history that is just waiting to be discovered. Part of this history (and most noteworthy) is the wealthy houses located within the city and the business’s they owned through the course of history. Some of these businesses include sawmills, brick making and cigar plants. These big business’s provided people with jobs and also some of the more notable buildings around Menomonie. It’s vast history is like my hometown, Superior. Superior is home of the largest freshwater port in the world and has always been a big shipping port. However it has battled with the nearby city of Duluth Minnesota for business in ship travel, train railway usage and flow of materials through the port. This is quite like Menomonie, (Menomonie is the farthest you can reach from the Gulf of Mexico from a small ship) and the results are the same. Superior (and Duluth) has had lots of jobs and historic buildings in the city’s history. Making known this history is the Dunn County Historical Center, located in Menomonie Wisconsin. This award winning museum has everything from 5,000 year old copper spearheads, civil war artifacts, 1940’s automobiles and inventions from people in the Menomonie area. As I come to the Menomonie area, I can appreciate this history and be reminded of it as I see the history in the buildings around me. And when my family comes or when I’m hanging out with friends outside of campus, I have another conversation starter just about anywhere I go.

Blake G.

The Dunn County Heritage Museum helps retain many pieces of Menomonie’s vast history. Due to floods, fires and other disasters some things are lost or later destroyed. The Heritage Museum creates a community by having a large amount of artifacts that are in rotation to draw people who may be visiting Menomonie. A class reunion photo section is in circulation for when the people of a certain class regroup. The disastrous flooding that destroyed many historical bridges in Dunn County is featured as well, containing information on new bridge designs and pieces of the older bridges.  Menomonie’s most exciting event, the Kraft Bank Robbery, is also featured in which most of the citizens of Menomonie were a witness. The Mounds at Wakanda Park preserve some of the Native American history; the dam once overflowed and destroyed seven other mounds. The park is also a great place to play disc golf and feature gatherings generating a communal vibe. These two areas can create nostalgia but produce a sense of community in Menomonie.

Erich G.

I believe that the Dunn County Museum is what contributes to society the most in the Wakanda Park area, and it contributes through its history and culture. The Kraft bank robbery exhibit is a key example of how at one point the community was strong. After the robbery and murder of several civilians, the people of Menomonie grew stronger and became more wholesome, determined to prevent another disaster. The museum also shows how even with all the change in technology over the years, the people still retained their cultural heritage.

The area around Menomonie is completely different from my hometown. The fact that it is basically a small city is mostly what sets the two places apart. The Menomonie area we visited though was a more quiet and peaceful area, filled with trees and a playground area. The lake was fairly large, similar in size to the lake near my home, but it didn’t seem to attract many people (most likely because of the time of year). Usually, many people gather at the beach and play volleyball or swim. Another difference was the lake seemed to be separated from any sort of other attractions, while my lake has a few restaurants nearby and hosts festivals. All in all, the general area has a few similarities, but is mainly different from my home.

Kinsie F.

The honors orientation presentation yesterday was very helpful and informational. I learned a lot about the Menomonie area and the history behind the city. I also really enjoyed our tour to the Wakanda park mounds and Heritage Museum. The mounds were in the back of the park so we had a beautiful hike through the park and around the lake. It was very hot ,but it was really pretty. We also went to the Heritage Museum where are leader was the curator. He gave us a tour of the museum and even demonstrated an olden time vacuum cleaner. Overall, the tour was really fun and I learned a lot about the city I plan to spend the next four years in.

Grace G.

I have always enjoyed history and so it was exciting to explore the Dunn County Historical Society Museum.  I had no idea of the area’s history and didn’t realize there are reasons for a lot of Menomonie’s quirks.  Every building on campus is brick, which I found irritating and confusing before.  I like brick, but being in a new place where three fourths of the buildings look identical is frustrating.  I learned from the presentation and museum trip, however, that Menomonie has excellent clay for brick making, so brick was a practical building material.  I also had no idea where UW Stout got its name, which sounds silly, but almost none of my classmates did either and to be honest, I’m not sure anyone even wondered.  I learned on City as Test that it’s named after one of the lumber giants.  I think people pick UW Stout for financial and academic reasons and don’t look into its rich history or the perks of its town.  I enjoyed looking beyond the mundane and into history and culture I previously didn’t know about.  It gave me a sense of completion and comfort in a way, and showed me that my life could have more in it than school.

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About stouthonors

https://www.uwstout.edu/programs/hc/
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