Alyssa Wagner is the new site supervisor at Historic Forestville. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Alyssa Wagner is the new site supervisor at Historic Forestville. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
"I'm looking forward to being here in the spring...one of the things I've missed is seeing the school groups come to Forestville...I'm looking forward to sharing living history with our youth, to harvesting the asparagus, seeing the lilacs in bloom, spring at Forestville," said Historic Forestville's new site supervisor, Alyssa Wagner.

The Austin resident's first venture to the vintage village inside Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park, operated by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), was when she was an eighth grade student touring the site as part of a spring field trip.

Since then, she finished growing up and joined the summer interpretive staff in April 2006, leading students and visitors from the Meighen Store to the Meighens' home, showing off the items for sale in the store and those that made daily life at Forestville "modern" in spite of its pioneer status. She spent each school year working as a special education paraprofessional in the Austin school district, but when former Historic Forestville supervisor John Grabko announced his intention to retire late last summer, Wagner began considering what she might do to become more than an interpretive staff member.

"I have loved working here over the years, and I wanted to take the next step. I care about the site and want to share all of my skills and abilities," she said. "I just wanted to be able to share some new ideas, bring fresh thoughts to the site, while also maintaining the programming we already have. I am looking forward to being here more often and being a part of helping the site grow, and to helping Sandy Scheevel, our site manager, develop new programming."

She related that she intends to enrich the site's programming, educate the staff so they can educate the public further, and work to give the historic site a "neat as a pin" shine.

"What's exciting is that we've reworked and expanded some of our previous special events so that they're happening more often, like our Bread and Butter Day will be two special days of baking bread and churning butter," she said. "There won't necessarily be more events, but more opportunities to take advantage of our events.

"I want to help the staff learn where to get more firsthand information, help them hold the firsthand information we have in diaries and letters from people who were really here in higher regard and be what they refer to before a book about southeast Minnesota. Also, I want to help do some improvements - whether it's painting the fence or helping acquire more funds for improving the site - I like fresh painting, groomed gardens. I also want to get the site's name out more, find funding, do some marketing, community outreach, welcome the schools."

Wagner realizes that being a site supervisor means that she will have to handle funding for Historic Forestville, and she acknowledged that "it is a little frightening to have to do the funding for being part of such a large organization, but I have been learning the ins and outs, the procedures of how to acquire funding, and with Sandy's guidance, I'm sure I'll pick up on it quickly. I feel I will come upon challenges as the season begins and continues, and I am confident in being able to overcome them. I'll be able to advocate for Historic Forestville, to express what we need at the site. I feel I'll be a good advocate. I am very motivated and open, and I feel I am a good mentor, having worked in the school district - that I'm good at finding ways to help people learn and want to learn."

Wagner, who describes herself as "positive and upbeat," spends her time after work at the site crocheting, sewing, "doing all sorts of crafty and domestic things.

"I teach crochet through Austin Community Education, I have a 1911 Singer treadle sewing machine, and I recently got a modern machine with multiple stitches. I love to garden, I love to cook, I have a whole passel of animals - cats and ferrets. I used to have two snakes, but they were adopted out."

She also has a fiance, Kevin, who supports her ambitions and interests - historic domesticity and snakes included. "I have had Kevin for nearly eight years...I'm going to marry and keep him forever. He's very supportive of my new role. Since we've been together, I've always been an interpreter here, and he's very supportive of me taking this to the next step. Historic Forestville is a great opportunity to see everyday life and how it happened."

Historic Forestville is now open May through October, with opening day set for Saturday, May 3. From Thursday through Saturday, the site offers tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon until 5 p.m. The last tour starts one hour before closing time. For more information, log onto www.mnhs.org/forestville.