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Museum gala raises funds for 'Owandem'


The “Owandem” is closer to being restored to its former white-and-green glory.

The Friends of the Museum's “Novemberfest” gala last Thursday evening raised at least $3,000 with its live auction alone and drew a full house of more than 90 museum supporters, including many new faces.

“The turnout was superb,” enthused Friends' president Robert Schulz, who once again performed bartender duty for the group's annual fall gala.

“I think people were pleased with the event," he added, noting everything from the hors d'oeuvres to the selection of beer and wine to the new museum exhibit, "150 Years of Costumes,” was a hit.

While the amount raised still was being tallied, “I know we did very well,” Schulz said.

“The generosity was overwhelming,” he added.

While the gala, now in its sixth year, always has had its supporters, Schulz said he was especially pleased to see many younger people on hand Thursday night.

“The demographics of the crowd has changed dramatically from year one to last night, which is really good,” he stressed.

Schulz said services such as the local museum and library are vital to the community.

“If those things go away, you don't have much left,” he remarked.

“'Novemberfest' had that same great feel of previous galas but it was just a little more special," agreed fellow "Friend” Sarah Marusyk.

"Featuring some local beers in additional to our usual wine selection was a great add-on to the event, and having local musician Derek Harrison made it a really unique evening.

“We also had an impressive turnout of younger folks—which is so encouraging,” added Marusyk.

“Moreover, the evening had an even stronger sense of purpose this year because funds raised will be going specifically toward restoring the 'Owandem,'” she noted.

“That little tugboat is really special to the Friends of the Museum and this community.”

Gala patrons agreed the event was a blast.

“It was a fun and classy night," said Natasha Gaudio. "Great food, great company, great auction items.”

“I had a great time," echoed Nadine Mutz. "And the food was awesome.”

Rob Georgeson said it was a “fun night, filled with history and laughter and a very exciting auction”—all going to a great cause.

The gala took place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Fort Frances Museum, which was decorated with Oktoberfest pennants and German beer posters.

Judy Kielczewski catered the event, serving up an extensive menu featuring tasty Oktoberfest-inspired fare.

The Rainy Lake Highlanders piped in guests to start the evening while Harrison played acoustic guitar and sang, adding to the lively atmosphere.

In addition to ticket sales, part of the profits were raised thanks to the live auction.

Auctioneer Kim Cornell got the bids flowing on a wide selection of desirable items.

“Kim Cornell stepped up as our auctioneer this year and did an incredible job," said Marusyk, adding he was "quick, witty, and drew in a lot of money for the museum" and Friends "were so fortunate to have him on board.”

“Our community artists and business owners blew us away with donations again this year,” she noted.

“There were so many one-of-a-kind items up for auction. The Fagerdahls' handcrafted, life size nutcracker was certainly a standout item. I'm sure he'll be a hit this Christmas wherever his new home may be,” said Marusyk.

The gala also coincided with the new exhibition, “150 Years of Costumes,” on loan here from the Costume Museum of Canada.

This exhibit was enhanced with fancy clothes on loan from longtime local resident June Smith.

Smith, who is well-known for serving the needs of the mentally-challenged over the decades, also is known for always being extremely well-dressed.

A number of her dresses and other outfits continue to be on display as part of the exhibit, which will be up through the end of the year.

Fundraising progress

The net profit for the gala was still being worked out as of earlier today.

However, it is known that prior to last week's gala, a total of $7,700 had been raised for the “Owandem” campaign.

The overall fundraising goal for it is around $25,000, so the campaign will have to continue.

The cost to refurbish the boat is roughly estimated at $20,000, with possibly another $5,000-$6,000 needed to pay for the infrastructure around it once it is moved to the waterfront near its big sister, the “Hallett," explained Fagerdahl, who along with his wife, Caren, is not only a boat history buff but a "Friend” member.

“We are looking at placing this little boat, hopefully, [on] July 1, 2018. It will be together again with the 'Hallett,'” enthused Fagerdahl.

“So please help us," he urged. ”Give us a hand.

“This little boat needs to find a home.”

The public can make pledges at the museum while shoppers can drop their loose change in any of the three white-and-green tug boat collection boxes which have been making the rounds at various local businesses.

Going over the history of the vessel, Fagerdahl told the crowd that both the “Owandem" and the "Hallett” were built by the Russel Brothers, who started their business in Fort Frances in 1907 but later moved it to Owen Sound.

Both vessels are the same type as those seen on the out-of-circulation one-dollar bill.

When active, the “Owandem's" purpose was to shepherd the log booms and help the "Hallett,” which was the primary towing vessel.

In addition to its boom-sluicing duties, it was used at the sorting gap on the upper Rainy River, below the Ranier rapids.

The “Owandem” was donated to the Fort Frances Museum by the late Arden Erickson Barnes, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain who purchased the boat when it was decommissioned in 1993.

Barnes then ran it on Rainy Lake until shortly before she passed away in 2014.

Her wish was for it to be returned to the Canadian side of the border.

The boat, which was in dry-dock over in International Falls, was brought across the border in December by Rick Roche of Roche's Towing & Salvage in the Falls.

It was taken to the Public Works yard on Wright Avenue, where Shane Armstrong of George Armstrong Co. Ltd. provided a crane to move it off the trailer.

It remained parked until earlier this fall when it was moved again.

A crane from George Armstrong Co. Ltd. lifted the boat onto a trailer provided by CJ Contracting.

Claude Jodoin then transported it to Devlin, where Erwin Hughes helped Mark Faragher unload it as his BodyWorks shop in Devlin, where he could begin working on it.

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