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This is an interview with the Curator and Board of Members for the Santa Clara History Museum in regards to their participation in Swiss Days. Enjoy this read!
Santa Clara Historical Museum
I understand that the Santa Clara Historical Museum will be in the Swiss Days event again. Tell me about what you will be doing this year?
We have been participating in this great event for years. Santa Clara’s Annual Swiss Days Celebration is truly a home-town celebration full of history and fun! Santa Clara celebrated its first Swiss Days in 1990 in tribute to the town’s pioneer heritage. So for us, this is a vital part of our community outreach as we also focus on the heritage of our community. This year the event is starting today and will run all weekend.
So, other than enjoying the community and celebrating local culture what can people see and do at the museum booth?
This is one of our main events for the year; we share information about the many artifacts and exhibits we have about the museum as well as some of the programs that we offer throughout the year. At our booth we will have demonstrations of Swiss traditions to the public and the schools. We’ll also include some crafts like paper cutting, egg dyeing, and may pole braiding demos which are just wonderful! We also do a lot of our fund raising at Swiss Days. Throughout the event we will host a silent auction. This year we have some great items thanks to the many local businesses and individuals that donate goods and services for the silent auction. Items include Dinners at local restaurants, Nail and salon services, Spa and massage services, Gift baskets full of products or food, Local Art and crafts, Quilts, Books autographed by local writers, Stays at resorts and hotels and gift certificates for local entertainment.
Wow, that is quite a bit.
Yes, though we are a volunteer run nonprofit organization and our budget may not be huge, we do look for this event to fund a lot of the work that we do throughout the year. And, thanks to our many great volunteers, the museum will be open to the public during the Swiss Days celebration.
Where is the Santa Clara Historical Museum located?
Santa Clara is a small town, so attendees will be able to enjoy the festival and still walk over to the museum. The museum is inside the Town Hall located right in the heart of downtown Santa Clara on the basement floor.
What is the purpose of the Santa Clara historical museum?
We want to tell the story of the prehistory and history of the small town Santa Clara.
What do you mean by pre-history?
There is a small clear water river named the Santa Clara. Around this stream are many prehistoric village ruins and petroglyphs. Early settlers of Santa Clara found many ancient artifacts and stone tools as they built their pioneer homes. Many of these ancient artifacts are shown in the museum and we focus on the stories and life around them.
Who were the first settlers of Santa Clara?
In the 1850’s Mormon missionary Jacob Hamblin and many others came to make friends with the native Americans of the Paiute Tribes. At that time a fort was built of red rock walls near the Santa Clara river.
So, how do the Swiss fit into this history in Santa Clara?
Many Swiss family’s that had become Latter Day Saints we’re asked to come to Santa Clara and use their knowledge to grow fruits vegetables and grapes for wine. The land was fertile and water from the river readily available, so it was a very natural fit.
What were some difficulties the early settlers faced?
Soon after getting settled in the Santa Clara fort, tragedy struck in the form of a flood that took the fort down and washed away much of the farm work done by the Swiss. At the time, the Swiss were isolated from St George by 7 miles. They had to provide for themselves, and had to be frugal even with their creativity. They did old world decorative papercutting that was extremely intricate and lacy. They exchanged paper cut cards at Christmas and birthdays. They dyed eggs with natural dye from onion skins and matter weed for Easter. Their crafts were truly amazing.
Do you still have some of those artifacts as part of your displays?
Yes, and much more! The museum has a drum and trumpet that was used to play for dances for early settlers. We have a shoe that was lost inside the wall of the original elementary school by a student and then recovered by him 60 years later when the building was torn down. We have an individual display case for many of the early Swiss pioneers holding pictures and antique artifacts. Tributes to the early schools, cowboys, children, sports, foods, and service men and women are all found inside the museum.
What other traditions were part of life in Santa Clara?
Fruit stands were set up along Santa Clara parkway. Each family ran their own stand to make money from tourists headed to California. At one time Santa Clara had 22 family fruit stands. Today there is still one fruit stand that is still operating and people come from miles around for their fresh produce.
When is the museum open to the public?
During the annual Swiss days celebration going on now through the 22nd the museum will be open.
Throughout the year we are open on Tuesday ,Wednesday, and Thursday from 1- 4. We are also open some Monday nights and some Fridays as well as by appointment. Admission is free, but we do encourage donations to help us continue our work.