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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2017

Wissman clan grows up with Old Threshers

Sep 05, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor The Wissman family of Milford, Neb., who performed at Old Threshers for the 17th consecutive year, are shown during a Friday morning show at the Family Tent.

 

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News

 

There hasn’t been a Midwest Old Threshers Reunion this century without the Wissman family providing some of the free ground entertainment.

Loren and Gloria Wissman and their children marked their 17th year at Old Threshers, ranking as either one of the longest or the longest continuous entertainment group.

Although when asked, Loren Wissman said the family keeps returning “because Doris (Price, who heads up booking the ground entertainment) keeps asking us,” and the family does it because it has become a part of its life.

“This is one of our favorite places to sing,” he said after the family finished a Friday morning performance at the Family Tent. “We look forward to it and love coming back here.”

Most of the Wissman children have actually grown up with Old Threshers. When the family began its run at Old Threshers in 2000, the two youngest children who are now on stage — Nathaniel and Clarissa weren’t even born.

Over the years, family dynamics have changed. The Wissmans have 13 children (eight girls and five boys) and five have left the nest for marriage and employment opportunities, leaving eight to join their parents on stage.

Residing on a farm near Milford, Neb., which is 20 miles west of Lincoln, the Wissmans home school their children which leads to a very close family.

“Because the kids are home-schooled, they grow up as each other’s best friend and they all like music,” Wissman stated.

Loren and Gloria also grew up with music as both took piano lessons before gravitating to other instruments.

When not performing, the Wissmans own Wissman Enterprises, Inc. Loren and the boys still in the nest do seasonal work, installing underground irrigation systems in the spring and fall, and sandblasting and roof coating in the summer. The winter months are reserved “for a lot of shows. We do a lot of prison ministry,” he said.

The Wissman family performs at about 150 shows a year and takes their 45-foot motor coach south in the winter, performing in Branson, Mo., over the holidays and then venturing to the southeast part of the country.

Wissman still is somewhat in awe over what has transpired since the family began performing in nursing homes 20 years ago. “We never set out to do what we are doing now. The oldest girls started playing piano and one of the girls wanted a violin and we told her to save her money and when she was 13, she could buy one.”

Entering the teenage years has become a rite of passage as each of the children is allowed to purchase an instrument they want when they turn 13.

From the nursing homes, the family moved to churches and word-of-mouth gained them as many performances as they desired.

The Christian gospel group is heavy on string instruments. Loren plays the bass while the kids play banjos, mandolines, guitars and violins. Oddly there is not a keyboard in the instrumental lineup.

Along with the music, the Wissmans incorporate passages or parables from the Scriptures. “We feel the music has a message,” he said. “We chose gospel music because if we’re playing gospel, we might as well say something.”

About one-third of the family’s music is original. The oldest Wissman daughter wrote a lot of the music and several other children have written music being performed on stage.

The family has limited practice sessions, he said. “It is more informal or getting the instruments and doing some jamming. When we want to add a song, we will practice it.”

This year is special for the family because it will be a Wissman reunion. All of the children and their families (the Wissmans have eight grandchildren with a ninth expected to arrive next month), will be attending Old Threshers, two of whom will be traveling a great distance (West Virginia and Florida).

But the Wissmans said there is no better place to have a reunion. “We just love it here. It is a treasure. I know that when we aren’t singing any longer, we still will be coming,” he concluded.

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