Bremer County Historical Society and Museum (BCHS) is celebrating the 160th Birthday of the museum’s building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What better way to celebrate and learn about Bremer County’s past and local culture than by presenting its second season of “Cruising Through History.” Two communities, Sumner and Denver, have teamed with BCHS to entertain cruisers this summer and fall.
The concept of having a combined classic car cruise with historical presentations within Bremer County was the brainchild of Barb Lovejoy-Hess and Gary Emkes, a Waverly couple. Both life-long residents of Bremer County, they enjoy history and have been involved in several classic car organizations, attending many Kaiser-Fraser regional and international conventions held in the United States. They have also regularly participated in various events and car shows locally and within Iowa the past few years.
Lovejoy-Hess and Emkes shared their idea with other board members of BCHS, who initially inquired what a cruise usually is.
“It can be anything you want it to be,” Lovejoy-Hess said.
The couple also shared they knew of no car club or other organization that has had a cruise of this type. The board agreed that historical cruises would provide a unique format to present their county’s history that would also be fun for persons of all ages.
With the rest of the board sharing the couple’s excitement of a cruise series, a planning committee took off full throttle with project planning for their first two events last fall, utilizing an educational grant from the Bremer County Community Foundation and the Readlyn Community Fund to cover expenses. People cruised via their classic car or “daily driver” to designated historic sites where speakers shared interesting and educational information about Waverly and Janesville’s history. The lead car of the cruises was a 1951 Willis, owned by Lovejoy-Hess and Emkes, who first envisioned the historical cruise concept.
The first of two cruises is being presented in collaboration with Memories Are Forever, Sumner’s state and national historical site of the city’s 1901 school and community museum. This event will be held on Sunday, June 12, preceding Sumner’s Sesquicentennial scheduled for July, and will spotlight history of the community.
Included in the Sumner cruise package is a tour of Memories Are Forever, which has more than 20 rooms filled with historical exhibits.
Award-winning book author, and northeast Iowa native Betty Brandt Passick, will speak at the school-turned-museum and answer questions about her books on Sumner’s John Bartels Family of 1889 and “Gangster in Our Midst” featuring four classic cars.
They will hear about Sumner’s founders, Carpenter and Cass, while visiting the gravesites at Union Mound Cemetery. They will also see the historic Pennington House, get a porch view of the Wescott Home, and will cruise through their city park.
Registration starts at noon at the Bremer County Historical Society and Museum at 402 W. Bremer Avenue, Waverly, with the cruise expected to arrive in Sumner at 1:30 pm Cruisers traveling directly to Sumner should register at 1 pm at Memories Are Forever at 300 W. Fourth Street. Dash plaques, a coveted collectible of classic car owners, will be given to the first 25 who respond.
The second cruise will be held in Denver on Sunday, Sept. 25, featuring long-time community involvement and history of the American Legion, local cemeteries, Brandt Park, The Big Woods, and downtown’s historic buildings, including Diekman Hall.
Linda McCann, a popular local author, will share history about Denver’s railroad history, which she has written about in her book Cedar Valley Road.
BCHS is seeking stories to be shared about other Bremer County communities, as well as storytellers and volunteers to help them in planning future cruise events to continue next year and beyond. Anyone interested is encouraged to call Barb Lovejoy-Hess at her di lei business phone di lei, 319-352 6348.