KENDALLVILLE — Windmill enthusiasts from as far away as Colorado gathered Saturday at the Mid-America Windmill Museum for its 25th anniversary party.
“We’re celebrating the longevity of the museum and honoring the people who started this,” said museum president Kevin Kelham, standing in the coolness of Baker Hall.
The party, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featured a scavenger hunt and pinwheel construction for children, pork burgers, homemade ice cream and a program of dignitaries and entertainment.
Speakers included Kelham; Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe, who read a proclamation; state Rep. Dave Abbott of Rome City; Noelle Sydlyck of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development; and Chris Crabtree of U.S. Rep. Jim Banks’ office.
The entertainment was as hot as it was outside, with performances by the Applesauce Singers and newly crowned Miss Indiana Tiarra Taylor. The quartet, Jon Hartman, Eric Beck, Garth Coons and Fred Inniger, accompanied by Harold Sollenberger, sang a variety of tunes from the 1960s novelty song,“Kissin’ and Huggin’ with Fred” to “Amazing Grace,” “God Bless America” and the gospel favorite, “Feeling Fine.”
A technical glitch took out the microphone, so Taylor, ever the professional performer, sang acapella, moving into the audience so they could hear better. She sang her winning talent song, “She Used to be Mine,” as well as “At Last” and “God Bless America.”
The museum, the only one of its kind east of the Mississippi River, has 52 full-size windmills and replicas on its property on Kendallville’s east side. A restored bank barn holds many other artifacts relating to wind power and the companies which manufactured them, including the leader, Flint & Walling Co., which still operates in downtown Kendallville.
Kelham said the museum is a reminder that water comes from the ground, not from a faucet as many people believe.
“Farmers had to pump water. The water tank was on top of the hill and the water passed through several tanks on the way down,” Kelham said. The water’s path quenched the thirst of livestock, watered gardens, cooled milk and made its way to the farmhouse kitchen.
“Where does water come from?” Kelham continued. “Younger generations don’t know.”
Event chair Pam Younce said she was grateful for the help of 50 “of the most wonderful, dedicated volunteers you could ever have.”
Younce said it was an honor to have museum founder Russ Baker’s children there to celebrate the silver anniversary. Baker’s son, Scott Baker traveled from Carmel and his daughter, Rebecca Lawrence, made the trip from Ward, Colorado.
Younce said the museum remains relevant as windmills are still in use today by Amish farmers and many farmers in the West. Aeromotor Co. still makes the traditional model.
She explained there are three types of windmills: the water mill, the grinding mill that turns a stone to grind grain, and a power mill, where wind turns gears to operate machines. The enormous modern windmills of today are a different type, she said.
“Wind turbines generate electricity and that’s the difference,” Younce said.
Younce, a volunteer since 1992, says the museum is known around the world. Visitors are impressed by the full-size windmills, the restored bank barn, the water tank and other features.
The Kendallville museum has had visitors from all 50 states, 44 countries and six provinces in Canada.
“People tell stories about their memories” of the windmills on the farms where they grew up — especially the sound when the wind wheel turns,” Younce said. “The windmills are talking to us.”