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Volunteers help Pioneer Village come back to life before 70th anniversary

MAY 24, 2023- Volunteers from all over the country are currently doing all types of renovations (Photo Credit: NTV News)
MAY 24, 2023- Volunteers from all over the country are currently doing all types of renovations (Photo Credit: NTV News)
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After being featured on the History Channel show American Pickers earlier this year, Pioneer Village is seeing more visitors, according to staff. Now their hope is to start seeing even more visitors with all the renovations currently underway.


Volunteers from all over the country are currently doing all types of renovations.

One group of volunteers include 19 people with RVs who do renovation projects in state parks, county parks and museums. A year ago, another group, A Year 2 Volunteer (Y2V), realized that a lot of work needed to be done in Pioneer Village, the RV group joined the Y2V to continue working on the village tasks this year.


That group of volunteers described the Pioneer Village as the Smithsonian of Nebraska.

“They have done so much. They have been here for the past week and a half. They have been out every day working from 8 a.m. to 5p.m.,” said William Ascarza, Pioneer Village director. “Some of the projects they have been doing have been involved with painting the interior and exterior of these buildings.”

The volunteers are also working on renovating signage, putting new tiles on the main building’s hallways, fixing wires, putting in light bulbs and even restoring the village’s carousel that dates back 120 years.

The volunteer work on the carousel started last year. This year the volunteers are putting a deck board on it. They are also working on making the carousel motor work.

“Our goal is to have it turning by the end of Friday,” said Kim Edward Dunbar, who volunteers with the RV group.

Ascarza has been the director of the Pioneer Village since March this year. He is coming from Arizona. Ascarza said that without volunteers, the restoration at the village wouldn’t be possible.

“Another item that our volunteers are doing is repainting an 1889 locomotive,” Ascarza said.

Volunteers also installed the original cowcatcher to the locomotive.

Also, thanks to local volunteers the village’s diner will soon start operating as well. Ascarza said that volunteers did a floor replacement, painted the interior and brought equipment. They also expended the back of the diner which allows to not only provide services to museum visitors, but also for local community members to buy food from the outside of the village.

Ascarza said the hope is to open the diner this summer. They will sell ice-cream, cotton candy, sandwiches, burgers, fries and beverages. He said the Pioneer Village will probably hire more staff to work at the diner.

“Museums don’t have a lot of money these days, staff is limited, resources are limited,” Ascarza said. “So, when you are dealing with a limited budget, volunteers are so important because they come in, they help, they get things done.”

Another group of volunteers working at the Pioneer Village is the family of Harold Warp, the museum’s founder. Fifteen Warp relatives who are also visiting Minden from all over the country, and Canada. They had a family reunion full of construction work.

“It’s our heritage,” said Michael Jensen, relative of Warp. “It’s also the people’s heritage, it's the Midwest heritage embodied in this village. This is just an amazing place.”

Michael was next to his family members Roger, Steven and Terry as they all explained how when they were little kids they used to visit the village every Christmas and would have the time of their lives.

“It’s really great to see the village coming back to what it was,” Roger said.

Some of their grandkids, daughters and sons were also volunteering.

The village will soon celebrate its 70th anniversary with all the renovations. The celebration will happen on Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There will be entertainment, live music, vendors, tours and way more.

Throughout the day there will be live demonstrations of broom making and blacksmithing. Museum hosts will be interpreting the steam engine, vintage cars, agricultural equipment, the church and various other locations.

“When people come here, they will have the opportunity not just to take a tour of the grounds, but they will also have museum tours, so they better understand the exhibitions,” Ascarza said.

Pioneer Village staff said the museum is also working with area civic groups and schools to arrange other vendors, refreshments and demonstrations. Additions and changes will be made to their website as they are confirmed.

Meanwhile, the volunteers will continue to work on their tasks until the weekend.

“Retirement is a great thing but sitting in a rocking chair in front of the TV is a very short span, you are not going to be around for long so join a group, volunteer,” Dunbar said. “Go out and do something because that’s important, and you are giving back to the community”

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“We would not be where we are at without the volunteers,” Ascarza said. “They have really turned the museum around to this amazing, aesthetically, appealing place.”

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