United Way Spotlight

United Way Spotlight An agency which receives funding from United Way of Vermillion will be featured in this spotlight each week. The United Way of Vermillion Board of Directors wants the people of Vermillion to know more about the agencies that receive United Way funding and the services which they provide to the Vermillion community.

This week's featured agency is the Friends of the W.H. Over Museum, the group that is in charge of managing the museum's collection as well as the funding for the museum.

On Sunday, Dec. 3, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. the Friends of the Museum will celebrate their 33rd annual Christmas Festival, "Discovering Christmas on the Trail of Lewis and Clark."

Thirty-three years ago, the Christmas Festival committee of the newly established Friends of the Museum was formed as a means of calling attention to the wonderful antiquities on exhibit in the Over Museum. The event was a sell-out!

Since then, even in the lean years when the museum was not open to the public, the Friends have offered a Christmas Festival and the community has responded. No admission fee has ever been charged. The festival is simply a way to say thank you to the community for its support.

At this year's festival, look for 20 different arts and crafts representing both traditional and contemporary means of expression in candle wax, pottery, wood, fabric, food, etc. Most of the crafts people are from the Vermillion area, but some will come from as far as Worthington, MN, to display their products. Some will sell their wares or take orders for them.

Also look for the annual Friends bake sale and great savings offered at the Museum Gift Shop holiday sale which will provide guests with unique "take-home" things and the museum with the main revenue for this all-out, holiday celebration event.

Special features of the festival will be displays of collections and unique table settings. The museum will exhibit part of its collection of old Christmas greetings and ornaments. Throughout the afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Santa will visit with youngsters in the Discovery Room and the Friends will provide special activities for children. Community groups will entertain with festive music, dance, and other forms of artistic expression in Sletwold Hall.

The W.H. Over Museum is open year-round and many activities and exhibits are available to the public. On Saturday mornings in the fall and spring, free classes for all ages are offered. The Speakers/teachers also volunteer their time and talents at no fee. This fall there have been sessions on the birds of South Dakota, the eolian landscape through the United States, watercolor collage, crayon resist, rope making, and more.

The Lewis and Clark/Spirit Mound Learning Center, opened officially on Aug. 25 of this year, is also free and open to the public. Travelers on the Lewis and Clark Trail as well as children in classes have been able to spend as much time as they wish learning more about the experiences of the Corps of Discovery in this area.

The center was developed through the help of two matching grants from the South Dakota Department of Transportation and the National Park Service. However, many hours of volunteer service by the Friends have helped to make the center possible.

The plans for the center include additional computer programs for really young children and for handicapped individuals, and the addition of Lakota names for plants and animals found in this area by the Lewis and Clark expedition. All of these plans will enable the public to learn more about this almost 200-year old journey.

Started in 1883 by a gift from the Territorial Government to provide a display cabinet for the rocks and minerals of this region that were collecting in the newly established university at Vermillion, the museum has grown and changed over the past 117 years to reflect not only the natural history of eastern South Dakota and the surrounding region but also the cultural history of the people who have lived here during the last 10,000 years. From the prehistoric cultures to the contemporary, the museum strives to represent their life styles as well as their curiosity about the world they live in.

The current handicapped-accessible building housing the museum was designed and built thanks to the hard work of the staff and the Friends in raising the necessary funds and in supporting it "on site" after it was opened.

With the help and support of the community and funding from various sources including United Way of Vermillion, the Friends of the Museum plan to continue a style of exhibiting and programming that will educate and entertain all who enter its doors.

Everyone is invited to join in the work and fun as a member or simply as a friend. For more information call the museum at 414 East Clark Street, or e-mail us at whover@usd.edu.

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