Katie Ribbens, Tabetha De Groot—Staff Writers
Following the city of Sioux Center’s unanimous vote to relocate the Heritage Village, board members for the village offered some heated accusations.
A valued, historical tribute to the community, the village is scheduled to move from Open Space Park to Tower Fields in late 2021. The move creates space for an indoor turf facility available for both Dordt University students and community members.
Ron Oostra has been on the Heritage Village board for about 20 years. He has some concerns about the relocation.
“[The Heritage Village] was set up to preserve the history of this community…. And we’ve tried to make it a living history.”
For the Sioux Center News, board member Dennis Hoekstra accused Dordt of betraying the village. He called the university a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, likening the situation to the Bible story of the rich man taking the poor man’s sheep.
“It’s time for you to be a better neighbor,” Hoekstra said for Sioux Center News.
The Heritage Village was founded in 1991 to commemorate Sioux Center’s centennial celebration. Each fall, the Heritage Festival takes place at this location where hundreds of children come from surrounding counties to participate in activities such as creating apple cider from the nearby trees, interacting with farm animals, and exploring Sioux Center’s oldest buildings.
At a meeting in February 2021, board members emphasized they had no desire to relocate the Historical Village. They saw the situation as unreasonable; they held nothing against the building of the turf facility but did not see why they had to move in order to accomplish it.
“You don’t just pick these buildings up,” Oostra said.
The process of moving several buildings all requiring new foundations is a tedious and expensive process. Currently, the buildings are filled with tens of thousands of items in need of packing up. Sioux Center is expecting Heritage Village volunteers to begin the move soon—a chore requiring of two to three thousand hours of volunteer work.
Then there are the trees. The Heritage village is home to around 200 trees of 70 varieties. It will cost $1,000 to $1,500 dollars for each tree uprooting and transfer.
“Some can be moved, but the rest will end up in the tree dump,” Oostra said.
The move, the trees, and the building of the turf facility itself will all add up to about 12 million dollars.
“[The turf facility] is being built where it is because Dordt is insisting it be built there,” Oostra said. “We have various alternatives like north of the football field.”
Alternatively, city council members saw the move as an opportunity for the Village to expand.
Anna Herman, a freshman at Dordt, attended the Harvest Festival last fall. As a student athlete, she looks forward to the indoor turf facility, but crossed her fingers the addition of the building would not result in the relocation of the village.
“I think it’s sad that they’re choosing a little bit of accessibility over the history of the town and something that means a lot to people in this town,” Herman said.
Herman holds fond memories from growing up in Sioux Center and attending events at the Heritage Village. School field trips and projects at the Village resulted in scrapbooks full of leaves. The leaves, gathered from 60 varieties of trees, came from trees dedicated to loved ones, serving as a living memorial.
When younger, Herman always looked forward to the prospect of exploring the village. Even though its buildings were old, they were new to her.
“I guess when you’re little, you don’t realize it, but now that I’m older when I go through it, I realize this is how my grandparents lived,” Herman said. “I know I relate to my grandparents a little bit better in that way.”
Kelsey Tschetter, a sophomore at Dordt, referenced similar memories at the historical museum in her grandmother’s small town in Minnesota. It sparked her interest in history. Tschetter thinks it important to keep the reminder of historic Sioux Center culture. For her, history must be known so mistakes of the past are not repeated.
Tschetter, who only recently learned about the Heritage Village, is saddened to hear about it only in time to say goodbye. She plans to visit it before its relocation.
“It’s kind of disappointing to see that get shoved out and be a second priority,” Tschetter said.
Herman believes Sioux Center is trying to shift from a small-town identity to a destination and neglecting its historical roots in displacing the Heritage Village.
“I think they forget sometimes that they are a small town and there’s only so much they can do,” Herman said.
Council member Eric Moerman supported the idea of using the turf facility as an expansion for Sioux Center. “It’s another piece that Sioux Center is going to provide its citizens,” he said in Sioux Center News. “It becomes a hub.”