By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — After 16 years, membership in the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group has dwindled to a handful of committed volunteers, and the group would very much appreciate adding new members to their roster.
“We need to come up with a plan as to what is going to happen with the group,” said Troy Knutson, who has taken over the president’s position temporarily until January 1.
Members of CMBRG talked to the Colfax Messenger about their need for more members during their August 18 meeting.
“We have to stress that we are in desperate need of new members,” Knutson said.
“We are, I think, all burned out. It’s not that we are willing to give up, but we could sure use some help,” he said.
Knutson previously served as president of the restoration group for a number of years. He says he is reluctant to commit to being the president for more than the rest of the year because of his children.
“President is not going to work for me long-term with my kids being the age that they are. There is no way I could put as much time and energy into it the way I used to when I was single. The kids are only this age once, and I’m not giving that up,” Knutson said.
“Something needs to be done. We either need more members, or …” he said.
The “or” could involve dissolving group.
“We are looking for people who are willing to step in and help, preferably maybe take an officer’s spot,” Knutson said.
“People can be as involved or not as involved as they’d like to be,” said CMBRG member Mona Thorson.
If someone can only put in an hour or two here or there or only help with one activity, that’s fine, she said.
The one activity coming up that will require quite a few short-term volunteers is the Tour of Homes on November 19.
CMBRG has arranged for about a half a dozen homes in and around Colfax to be on the tour, including the Colfax Rural Lutheran Parish parsonage.
The Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group was formed in 2000.
Artifacts and money
One of the main concerns of the group is — if CMBRG does dissolve, what happens to the historical artifacts that the group has collected?
And what happens to the money that is remaining?
CMBRG members agreed that they would prefer to have Colfax artifacts stay in Colfax.
Some of the items are on display in the Colfax History Room at the Colfax Municipal Building.
To date, the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group has invested well over $100,000 in the municipal building.
The biggest project involved paying for the electrical upgrades in the building and rewiring and refurbishing the auditorium, along with refinishing the floors, arranging to have the stage’s original curtains cleaned and rehung, and painting the auditorium.
After being boarded up and unused for 30 years or more, the Colfax Municipal Building Auditorium has been turned into what some describe as “the jewel of Colfax.”
The money collected by CMBRG has been raised by conducting bake sales, writing grants, selling beverages at Country Jam, collecting aluminum cans, selling tee-shirts and calendars and pewter ornaments, and receiving donations from people who remembered going to movies and plays in the auditorium and wanted it to be available for future generations.
“We’ve done Country Jam for a lot of years. That has been a big moneymaker for us,” said Marge Hernandez, who has served as treasurer of the group since it started.
“We have been part of the Colfax fair forever, too,” Thorson said, noting that CMBRG used to do programs for the fair.
CMBRG also holds a raffle at the fair, with prizes donated by local businesses as well as individuals.
CMBRG member Susan Hill belongs to several historical groups that involve both individuals and couples.
“It would be nice if we could get some couples involved,” Hill said.
Working with CMBRG might be a shared activity that couples could enjoy which would also benefit the group, she said.
The municipal building’s role during the 1958 tornado was especially significant, Hill noted.
The building, which stood rock solid during the June 4, 1958, tornado served as a triage center and a safe place for people to come after much of the village had been destroyed.
CMBRG members say they would love to involve high school students with the group, but a unit on local history is not taught at Colfax High School.
Knutson said that at the time he was in high school, a unit on local history sparked his interest in Colfax history and led to the collection he has now of historical photographs, memorabilia and artifacts and also led to him publishing his book, “Looking Through the Lens,” for the Colfax Sesquicentennial in 2014.
A unit on Colfax history is taught in elementary school, Knutson noted.
The municipal building basement is the next big project that will need attention.
The Village of Colfax contracted with A Breeze Construction this year to improve drainage around the municipal building to help dry out the basement.
The money for the drainage project came from a designated fund for the municipal building basement which included funds set aside by the village board nearly 20 years ago and money donated by individuals.
After it has been determined the project was successful and there is no longer any water infiltration, the next step will be to remodel the basement so it can be used for community events and perhaps by the Colfax Public Library.
CMBRG members also pointed out the building needs an elevator or a lift to make it completely handicapped accessible on all three floors — the main floor with the library and the village offices, the basement and the auditorium.
Even if someone would volunteer to maintain a Facebook page for the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group, that would be helpful, Knutson said.
“They wouldn’t even have to come to the meetings. They could do that from home,” he said.
In this age of social media, keeping contact with people who spend time online would be enormously helpful to the group, Knutson said.
The Colfax Municipal Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group will be holding their annual pie sale at Music in the Park in Tower Park Thursday, August 25, at 7 p.m.
Herrick and Friends is scheduled to play at the August 25 event, which is the last concert of the season.
Music in the Park is sponsored by the Colfax Woman’s Club.
Anyone who might be interested in joining the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group, or who might be willing to help out with a project, can contact Knutson at 715-962-3027.