SIDNEY — When Larry Beard was a child he was told countless tales by his grandfather, a train engineer in Ohio, of the workings of the railroad industry in the late 19th century.
Today, Beard shares those the stories and knowledge he obtained long ago from his grandfather with the young children who attend the annual Heritage Festival on the campus of Montcalm Community College.
Beard, dressed as an old-fashioned train engineer, smiles as children young and old enter the old McBride Depot located within the village and pull the rope attached to a train whistle, which blows loudly and echoes throughout the village for everyone to hear.
“We’re all a group of volunteers that do this for nothing, just to bring the history back to the kids,” Beard said. “Without a place like this, these kids wouldn’t know what a train depot is, or things like that from the past.”
Beard is a member of the Heritage Village Committee, which puts on the annual festival to help teach children and adults about the ways of life dating back to the civil war era.
Ruth Graham, 15, of Coral, said she has participated in the festival for two years now and enjoys engaging in the elements from the past.
“It’s really fun, educational and you just have a good time,” she said. “We camp, cook and live like they did near the Civil War era.”
Lindsey Bathurst once again brought her two children, Colin-McClain, 8, and McKailey, 13, to the festival, as they have been coming for numerous years to take in the history.
“The kids do the old fashioned school every year,” Bathurst said. “Learning about the past and how things are built, they have it easy today compared to how things were back then.”
One of the more popular events this year was showcased in the center of the village, where a quarter-sized replica of an American Midwest timber-frame barn was constructed.
Children worked together with Tim Wiles and Vera Wiltse of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network to learn and engage with the proper techniques to erect a barn.
“The idea behind it is to help the younger generation understand what timber framing is all about,” Wiltse said. “We hope they develop an appreciation for some of those rural icons that are out there that are falling down every day, because they are the ones who are going to have to save them in the future.”
With tractor rides, art exhibits, children’s events and much more, the festival will continue today and Saturday with several more events to enjoy.
Each morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. children will continue to partake in the historic schoolhouse re-enactment in the old Gaffield Schoolhouse located within the village. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. wagon rides around the village will be available.
Today, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Montcalm Area Art Association exhibits, demonstrations and sales will be on display.
A quilt show located within the Doser Building will take place today and Saturday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
A threshing demonstration will take place at 11 a.m. today, along with a historic town hall reenactment.
From noon to 3 p.m., live music will be performed at the bandstand and at 1:30 p.m. the barn raising event will begin.
Tonight at 7 p.m., boogie-woogie pianist Matthew Ball will perform in the Barn Theater. Tickets are available for $10.
On Saturday, a pancake breakfast will be available in the Activities Building at a cost of $6 at the door.
The highlight of Saturday will be the Vintage Baseball game which begins at 10 a.m. and will feature the style of the game as it was during the Civil War era.