The Friends of the Thumb Octagon Barn have been quite successful in raising the needed funds to restore the structures and move towards our goal of creating the Thumb Agricultural Museum thanks to the support of the community and the many who volunteer their time and talent.
When people visit the Thumb Octagon Barn for the first time, they’ll probably be greeted by one of our Host Couples. The caretaker program was started in 1999. The purpose for establishing this program was three-fold. First we were starting to attract a lot of attention from people both in and out of the area. Each day, throughout the summer people were stopping to check this landmark. It became apparent that someone must be available to meet and greet these visitors and give them a brief history of the site. The second reason for needing a host couple was to provide some security to the site. As we worked to restore the structures, we were investing considerable time and money into this effort. Finally, we were also re-establishing the lawn and flowerbeds. As with any yard, this required weekly attention during the summer months. In 2003 a classified ad was put in the “Highways Magazine”. This plan has been successful with couples returning for two or more years and coming from all over Michigan, as well as a number from out of State. We’d like to welcome our 2016 Host Couples, Ron (Too Tall) & Tammi Hensley and Curtis & Mary Bell.
The Thumb Octagon Barn host many events throughout the year. The creation of “Fall Family Days” came as a result of the ‘Friends’ mission statement to educate the public about the agricultural heritage of rural America in the early 1900’s. The first event was a one-day activity on September 14, 1996. It drew about 100 visitors. The second year drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people and it took off from there.
In 1999, The Fall Family Days were increased to two days because it was drawing visitors and exhibitors from the far corners of Michigan and even out of state. The activities officially open Saturday morning with a flag raising ceremony and the singing of the National Anthem. Visitors are given a tractor drawn shuttle ride to the site from the additional parking area. The barn, home, one room country school and schoolhouse museum, powerhouse, sawmill, sugar shack, grain elevator, blacksmith shop and cider mill are open for tours with live old-fashioned music on the grounds. There are lots of homemade foods to eat and live field demonstrations. A different theme each year enhances the fun and gives visitors something new to look forward to. The last several years Fall Family Days have drawn 15,000 visitors.
School Tours began in 1996 when teachers were scheduled to bring their students to the barn to see farm animals, tour the barn and house, learn about early barn building, sheep sheering, etc. The first year 500 students attended and today over 1200 young people come from all over the Thumb and beyond. School Tours has become an annual field trip for students from pre-school through 8th grade and is held the second week in May on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during the school day. Volunteers from various backgrounds introduce the students to the history of rural America. As they visit more than 20 educational stations on the site including the Barn, the Purdy home and the One Room Country School they learn what life was like many years ago.
Since 1997 the “Friends” have had an annual meeting to recap the year’s activities and to honor people and businesses from the area that have played a major role in helping to obtain the goals of the organization.
For a number of years the House Committee had been considering the idea of having an Afternoon Tea in the Purdy home. Using the surroundings and atmosphere, ladies attending the tea could step back in time and experience a social gathering similar to those their Mothers and Grandmothers may have attended. The first ‘Tea’ was held in the fall of 2007 and was attended by eight ladies, some in period attire. Since that time three such events have been held during the summer months and have grown from the ‘Tea’ to luncheons and dinners.
The Friends welcome visitors to the site from May 15th through September from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Site Tours can be arranged for groups of 10 or more by calling (702) 826-1908. Several weeks notice of a planned visit is suggested when date and length of time on site can be discussed. The tour of both the barn and house generally takes about 90 minutes but can be adjusted depending on available time for your groups visit. There is a nominal fee for tours. Also, the Octagon Barn site can be reserved for large group picnics, reunions, and other group gatherings. Guidelines, expenses and restrictions can be obtained by calling (702) 826-1908.