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Labor Day Picnic sees record crowd

A combination of good weather, good planning and good luck have come together to make the 34th annual Desloge Labor Day Picnic one of the best in the history of the popular Parkland event.

With temperatures on Friday and Saturday in the mid- to upper-70s, crowds made their way to the park in record numbers, and even with the onset of temps in the 80s on Sunday, the skies remained partly cloudy and an occasional breeze kept things more comfortable than might otherwise be expected.

Desloge Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member Todd Mahaney said the organization, which sponsors the picnic, couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.

"It has been absolutely spectacular," he said, while manning a booth at the picnic. "We've had a great turnout and we have more food vendors and craft vendors than we have in the past five years. We've done really, really well and we're excited about it."

Regarding the outstanding weather, Mahaney winked an eye, and said, "The weather this year has been very cooperative. It took a lot of planning to get this weather on tap, but with the right payment to the right people, specifically 'Mother Nature,' we did OK."

Mahaney said the chamber was especially pleased with the number of people who've made it to the park this year.

"We had a good crowd Friday night even with our football games," he said. "On Saturday we had a great turnout and everything went really well. We had quite a bit of food sales going and on today, Sunday, we're doing pretty good for this early in the day and we're looking forward to a big crowd tonight and then again on Monday."

The traditional Desloge Labor Day Parade, which begins at 9 a.m. on Chestnut Street, is also going to have more participants than usual.

"I believe they (planned for 65 entries) and have layover for extras if they show up," he said. "We had a lot of last minute entries to be in the parade. It's the same with the food and craft vendors — a lot of them signed up last minute this year."

Asked what kind of response the chamber has been receiving from people attending the picnic, Mahaney said, "We've gotten a lot of good feedback from everybody in regards to the layout and in regards to the variety we have going on this year.

"I think that the diversity we have this year is very good and working out well. As far as the cleanliness of the park — the city has done an excellent job and we thank them for that."

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Old Mine open house set for Sept. 9

Every year the Missouri Mines State Historic Site offers a chance to come out and get a better idea of the industry that gave the Lead Belt region its name. The 22nd Annual Old Mine Open House will be held Sept. 9.

Site Administrator Art Hebrank has been at the historic site for 24 years now, and helped orchestrate the first events held at the mine some 22 years ago.

“My general idea was that I was going to have two or three special events that would address our major themes, which are mining history and the mineral resources that are responsible for Missouri’s diverse mining history,” Hebrank said.

The three events came to be the Rock Swap held in the summer, a Fall Rocks event in October and the Old Mine Open House in September.

The open house offers free admission to the museum and, more importantly, the presence of individuals who actually worked at the mine when it was in operation.

This year's event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday

“This is one of my favorite events,” Hebrank said. “The miners love this place, because this is where they worked. This is their history. Some of them worked their entire career in the mines here. And now they have grandkids, so they like to show them what grandpa did and what machines he operated.”

Hebrank said he invited between 50 and 60 miners that worked at the location, which provides a unique opportunity for those interested in the history of the industry.

“The miners have a great time seeing people they don’t see very often,” he said. “And it’s a great asset to us because people have questions, and I can tell them the answers ... but who else is better to tell them than the people who actually ran the machines? So it’s kind of a first-person history from the mouth of the guys who did it.”

Apart from the men who did the actual mining, Hebrank said anybody who worked in the industry is invited as special guests, be they millers, smelters or office workers. He added that those people who worked in the industry won’t be around forever, so it’s important to take advantage of the wealth of information while it’s still here.

“We’re getting short of actual people who worked here,” he said. “Most of them are in their nineties, some of them high eighties. We’ve lost a lot since I started.”

The towns of the region were built around the mining industry over the last 153 years, but their legacy was not finished when the mines closed their doors, according to Hebrank.

“Sometimes when new businesses come to town, the chambers of commerce will take them around to show them the cultural things we have here,” he said. “They’ll bring them here, and I’ll ask them why they chose the area. And they all invariably have told me the same thing ... that we have a 150-year work ethic here.”

Hebrank himself worked as a miner in college and fell in love with the history of the industry. He’s accumulated great collections from the St. Joseph Lead Company, which is now the Doe Run Company.

The collections tell the story of a company that built the region around itself, leading the lead mining industry while employing generations of Missouri families over its century-and-a-half history.

Hebrank said the open house has brought as few as 250-280 people and as many as 800 in any given year.

For more information about the 22nd Annual Old Mine Open House, contact the Missouri Mine State Historic Site at 573-431-6226.

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Commission OK's $25,000 for bridge

At its Aug. 29 meeting, the St. Francois County Commission approved a request made the prior week for $25,000 from the Special Road District 2 to cover cost overruns that occurred due to unexpected foundation issues discovered during construction of the recently completed bridge on St. Joe Drive in Park Hills.

Special Road District 2 President William Hoppe appeared at the commissioners' Aug. 22 meeting to make the request and explained that the county owns half of the property on which the new bridge was built near the KFMO radio station in Park Hills. According to Hoppe, it is on the portion of land owned by the county where the instability issues were found.

The special road district had estimated that replacement of the bridge would cost about $500,000 and had a contract request for proposal on bids from engineering firms not to exceed $125,000 per $625,000 project. Hoppe told the commissioners that, with the recent completion of the bridge, the final expenses totaled $800,000 — which exceeded by $25,000 the 15 percent leverage and leeway the special road district had planned for in making its first payment in October.

Hope informed the commissioners that additional work needs to be completed to make the sidewalk ADA compliant and the city of Park Hills intends to provide upkeep for the bridge in the future. The $25,000 would tide over the special road district until the taxation account arrives in 2018.

Asked who was to blame for the cost overrun, both Hoppe and Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher agreed that it was the fault of "Mother Nature" because of the inconsistent rock base depth throughout the county.

After the motion was made to approve the $25,000 outlay, the commissioners stressed that this would be a one-time assist to the special road district.

"We had made it clear to the special road district that we would help out if needed," Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson said, in making the motion that the money be provided for the bridge payment. "I think we need to go ahead and do it."

The motion was unanimously approved.

With the money coming out of the Road and Bridge Department's budget, Supervisor Wendell Jarvis said he would be glad to provide the $25,000 needed for the bridge, but hoped that his department's budget would be reallocated an equal amount at a future date.

There was a brief discussion held regarding Jarvis' comment, but no final decision was made by the commissioners on reimbursing the funds to the Road and Bridge Department budget.

Museum project getting underway

Life-size dinosaur recreations, Viking artifacts, high-tech research facilities and family-friendly learning are all on their way to Ste. Genevieve, in the form of the aptly-named Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center.

The project has been in the works for a few years, culminating in a capital campaign that successfully raised more than $1 million to go toward the new facility, located just down the street from the historic museum.

The museum board’s Marketing Director Richard Rebecchi said the venture is not erasing the past, but fully embracing it by allowing individuals the opportunity to learn in an immersive environment that’s simply impossible in the space of the current museum.

“The message we’re trying to convey is that we’re not mothballing what we have,” Rebecchi said. “We’re embracing it and going in a different direction.”

The Learning Center is being designed with the idea of being the kind of venue that will stand out as a one-of-a-kind facility.

“The idea behind the whole thing truly is that we don’t want to be just another museum, or just another place where people look at three-dimensional objects,” Rebecchi said.

Art Director Kendall Hart said the Learning Center will be all-encompassing, in terms of exhibits and content.

“Really, the history of the world is going to be in this museum,” he said. “You’ll have to go to Chicago to compare with what we’re going to be able to have.”

The museum will supply artifacts pertaining to local history, while Hart and Curator Guy Darrough will populate the center with original collections of artifacts from world history and dinosaur recreations.

“[Guy] is the other 50 percent of the Learning Center,” Rebecchi said. “He and Kendall are bringing the science, fossils and artifacts to our historic artifacts. And hopefully, that makes a happy marriage that will make this the biggest family-friendly, hands-on entity between St. Louis and Memphis.”

Darrough is such a figure in the archaeology and paleontology field that he has his own storage drawers in the basement of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He has also discovered and named two species, according to Hart.

Darrough creates life-size recreations of dinosaurs for exhibition, but has also accumulated an enormous collection of Viking artifacts.

“We’re going to have enough stuff for our Viking display that we could have our own Viking TV show,” Rebecchi said. “And it’s good, high-end quality stuff.”

The building that will house the Learning Center is known locally as the Koetting Building on Market Street, and brings enough of its own history to the table.

“The building was built in 1900,” Rebecchi said. “The sign out front was lit in 1910. It first opened up as a jewelry and watch repair store. There was a coffin-maker in here, and there was a 1948 version of a Quick-Trip, and then a grocery store.”

The building has most recently been used as for office space in the upper levels, but will hopefully be completely converted to the Learning Center by next summer.

In addition to exhibits featuring world and local history, the center will also be a place for classes in subjects such as sculpting and French. The current museum affords around 1,500 square feet, while the Koetting Building provides over 15,000 in two floors, plus a basement.

Rebecchi said the plans are exciting for the community and region at large, saying that any fears about a lack of focus on local history are unnecessary.

“We still will embrace the community,” Rebecchi said. “Any time we can, we pay homage to the other structure. But there’s so many people in town who are worried that we’re taking something away permanently.”

He said there are plans to reserve a space that will rotate exhibits focused on local families, celebrating the contributions and legacies forged by generations of locals.

For updates on the project’s progress, visit, or find the Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center on social media.