McWilliams says Old Threshers had a strong year in 2016
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Midwest Old Threshers had a banner year in 2016, Terry McWilliams, Old Threshers CEO, told the Henry County Board of Supervisors Thursday.
In his annual report and funding request to the board, McWilliams said attendance at nearly all of the activities at the Old Threshers grounds showed an increase.
“We are doing some great things together, we are making things happen for the county and Mt. Pleasant,” McWilliams said. Attendance at the annual reunion was 35,855, or an increase of 4,600 over 2015. “We had a great reunion and the weather cooperated. You would have to go back to 2009 to find attendance as high as we had in 2016.”
During the five-day reunion, 830 volunteers logged over 46,000 hours, he added.
Another 7,060 people from 56 counties in Iowa visited during the Halloween House of Terror, up from 6,540 in 2015. A total of 12,655 people rode the haunted rails.
“We had so many people during the Halloween season that we had to use parking space we have never used before for Halloween,” he remarked.
About the only downer was Festival of Lights. “We were down 160 vehicles, but that was primarily due to bad weather on two of the weekends,” McWilliams explained. “We still had 3,383 vehicles go through the gates from 58 different Iowa counties and 30 states.”
He said Old Threshers is showing financial strength. “We are sitting better financially than we have for more than a decade.”
One of the reasons for the increased attendance, McWilliams theorized, was the mailing of 80,342 flyers to residences in surrounding counties. Not only did the flyers provide data on Old Threshers but also on other tourist events in the county. He said he hopes to increase the mailing this year.
McWilliams asked for an increase of the county’s contribution of $17,500 to Old Threshers to $20,000 in 2017 to expand the flyer effort.
He said improvement to the grounds for next year include solving some drainage problems in the camping area; restoring a trolley car; remodeling a restroom; adding more ground lighting; and replacing some of the existing lighting with LED lights. The CEO said Museum A will also be home to a new exhibit next year, featuring antique dolls and antique clothing.
“The only thing we can do is to try our best to get people coming to the reunion,” McWilliams concluded. “We’re always looking and thinking ahead and ways in which to expand.”
McWilliams’ report was the first of two heard by the supervisors Thursday. Members of the Henry County Historical Preservation Commission, which receives $11,000 in county funding, also gave their 2016 wrap-up.
“We are a pretty active organization and always feel there is some business we can take care of,” said 2016 chairman Caroline Lehman, who will be vice chairman in 2017 and yield the chairman’s post to Joel Garretson.
Some of the activities the past year included purchasing plaques for the four properties placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016; a self-guided tour of the four properties placed on the Register; a bi-monthly column in county newspapers; and compiling an inventory and photographing 30 plus signs marking the abandoned towns of Henry County. The group is only required to have three meetings per year but met 11 times in 2016.
A few of the agenda items for 2017 are placing between four and six signs marking locations of historic sites in the county; a joint tour with the Mt. Pleasant Historic Preservation Commission of significant African-American historical sites in Henry County; and recruiting some younger persons to serve on the commission.
“There are a couple of sites in Henry County that are historically significant, but have no signage,” Garretson said. Two of the sites are the Salem Fair, which was hosted from 1891-1897 near Salem, and the Army Air Cadet training field.
“We’re just getting started on this,” Garretson commented. “We propose to work with property owners to assist in erecting the signs.”
Ana Lair, county treasurer, presented her budget for fiscal 2018. The budget’s total expenditures were similar to fiscal 2017. She said she would like to purchase a multi-function printer (price tag is between $7,000-$8,000), a new laptop and a new desktop computer.
Supervisors meet again in regular session Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 9 a.m., in the Henry County Courthouse.