OWATONNA — Sunday’s 33rd-annual Extravaganza in the Village of Yesteryear will meld popular returning favorites, such as rope-making, clothes-washing demonstrations, and classic games, with new additions, like beekeepers and a petting zoo.
“We always try to change it up a little bit,” said James Lundgren, executive director of the Steele County Historical Society. “We try to come up with things that will excite people, and hands-on activities.”
There will be musical performances on the Dunnell House porch by Luverne Wanous and Hans Horman, while the Saco Church will have individuals playing the pump organ and a string quartet performance. In addition, The Skally Line musical group will return again this year for music and storytelling. Also on the musical front, Ryan Gillespie will sing the national anthem at noon in the Village circle, joined by the VFW Honor Guard for the official flag raising.
Food options are plentiful at the Extravaganza — which lasts from noon to 4 p.m. — including sloppy Joes, locally-made brats, pork burgers, ice cream, pie, and old-fashioned soda floats, Lundgren said. Furthermore, freshly-baked buchti, a Czech pastry, will be available in the General Store.
A Voyager encampment will be on the grounds throughout the weekend to discuss the importance of the fur trade in Minnesota history, Lundgren said. Until surpassed by the lumber industry, the fur trade was highly-profitable and mixed French, British, and American individuals.
Exhibits in the Village of Yesteryear include a 19-structure pioneer village featuring the Dunnell House, Carriage House, print shop — where H. Peter Baxter will again be stationed — the schoolhouse, General Store, Saco Church, two cabins, a train depot and caboose, Gus’ Station, blacksmith shop, the original Owatonna Town Hall, and a museum of professions.
Through tours, demonstrations, and artifacts, visitors can “see how people lived” decades or even centuries ago, Lundgren said. There is no admission charge Sunday for the Extravaganza, which is sponsored by the Zumbro River Brand.
There will be a bevy of crafts and games for youth Sunday, as well as a small engine display, Lundgren said. Because the Extravaganza is primarily an outdoor event, those planning to attend should check the Steele County Historical Society’s Facebook page for updates in case of inclement weather Sunday.
‘The Artist You Never Knew’
Author and artist Arthur Norby, who has carved out a successful 45-year art career as a painter, sculpture artist, and gallery owner, will also be at the Extravaganza Sunday. He’ll discuss his life and sign copies of his autobiography, “The Artist You Never Knew,” in the Dunnell House.
“This book is really about the life of an artist,” Norby said. Now 81, Norby “wanted a definitive” account of his life and times for himself and his friends and family, and he believes “lots of artists would benefit from my life story.”
To become a successful artist “is a full-time commitment for someone like me,” and “you may have to give up those things your friends have,” like boats, exotic vacations, and expensive cars, he advised. “Most artists will not achieve the financial success I’ve been lucky enough to.”
Born in 1937 on Christmas Day, Norby spent his formative years near Montevideo.
“I think I always was an artist,” he said.
He just didn’t formally “identify” himself as such until 1976, when he decided to “give it one year.”
“I never was going to turn back,” and “I didn’t give myself an option to fail,” he said. “I threw everything aside to spend a year as an artist.”
When he completed high school, Norby’s goal was to become an architectural draftsman, and the United States Navy “had a category I could get into,” but the Navy eventually dropped that program, so Norby left the Navy in 1967 and spent nearly a decade engaged in myriad endeavors, none of which flourished, he said. “I felt like such a failure.”
He turned toward art in 1976, and the turning point occurred in 1979, when he adumbrated a list of professional and personal goals while sitting atop a California mountain, he said. By the end of that year, he’d created 10 sculptures.
“I was off and running,” he said.
Norby was thriving in every way, except financially, but that all changed in 1996 when he was part of the team selected after a national competition to create the Korean War Veterans Memorial in St. Paul, he said. That 27-month project “gave me some solvency and some national recognition as a sculptor,” and, since then, he’s done dozens of public sculptures around America.
Strictly a sculptor for the first couple of decades of his career — he’s done more than 600 sculptures over the past half-century — Norby also picked up oil painting a quarter-century ago.
At the time, he was so overwhelmed with the number of sculptures he was working on that art began to “feel like a job,” so he completed his in-progress works, then took three months to paint clouds, which fascinated him since he was a child, he said. That helped relax him, and he was gratified for the positive reception to his paintings, which did brisk business.
He paints his clouds “big and bold,” and “there’s a certain depth I have in my cloud paintings other artists rarely have,” he said. “I do a lot of glazing,” so there’s “a depth and a sparkle to the clouds.”
He seeks “a balance of color and composition” with his paintings, which average 4-feet-by-5-feet, he said. “I’m not looking for realism.”
The five years he spent in the insurance industry turned out to benefit him in his art career, because the experience taught him the value of planning, he said. “You have to understand the business side as well as the creative side.”
Norby had eight galleries in Minnesota, Arizona, and Washington over the decades, he said. “I’ve represented more than 150 artists and helped them in their careers.”
“The Artist You Never Knew” was released June 1, and Norby is touring Minnesota to publicize the autobiography, which is a candid accounting of his successes and failures.
“For it to be a good book, you have to be honest, and you have to be brave to be honest,” he said. “I tried to be honest.”
For example, Norby writes about how his obsessive drive to succeed as an artist “cost me my marriage,” he said. He and his first wife divorced in 1979, and “I wouldn’t advise people to do what I did.”
Of course, “I’ve been very lucky” to live as an artist for 45 years, he said. “I was always making art I wanted to make.”
“The Artist You Never Knew” isn’t Norby’s first book. He also has a coffee table book and a pair of mystery novels set in western Minnesota. More information on those — as well as his art — can be found on his website, norbygallery.com.