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News :: Mary Ingalls Society marks first year; Vinton group plans meeting Aug. 29
· 11:08am August 26th, 2013
The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School Mary Ingalls Society began in September 2012. It is approaching its first anniversary, and a very busy year it has been. The Society was initially a subcommittee of the newly formed group, Destination Vinton, whose purpose was to focus on attracting tourists to our fair city. One noted tourist attraction was the Braille School. It was a time of uncertainty for the school’s future, and there was a desire to develop options for it in addition to its academic offerings for the visually impaired. One such option was to highlight its historical significance by focusing on one of the more famous alumni, Mary Ingalls.
Mary attended the school beginning in 1881, and there are records of her entrance and grades still maintained there. Several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s later books make reference to Mary coming to the school in Vinton, her progress and visits home. Our research showed us there are literally hundreds of fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder who travel to Ingalls’ family home sites including one in Burr Oak, Iowa. Many of these sites hold annual celebrations some including Pageants depicting the life of the family in that location. The one site connected to the Ingalls Wilder story not holding such a celebration was here in Vinton. So we began looking at ways to make this a destination for Ingalls Wilder fans as they make their way through the places in the life of that family.
We decided a pageant held on the Braille School campus was the best way to tell the story of Mary as well as emphasize the historical significance of the school in its own right. However this undertaking would cost a great deal of money, and we needed to find ways to do raise these funds. By Laws were developed and the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society was formed. Having the Society under the Vinton Community Foundation allowed us to offer tax deductions for any contribution made to our group. For a minimum contribution of $20.00, a person can join the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society and be a voting member at biennial meetings beginning in September 2014. We were fortunate to have an article appear in the Cedar Rapids Gazette in October 2012, the Waterloo Courier, the Vinton Today on line publication plus the Cedar Valley Daily Time and Vinton Eagle.
A grant was awarded to the pageant effort through the Benton County Community Foundation, a fundraising letter was developed, presentations have been made at various clubs and organizations, a Face Book page has been started and we have made connections with groups and individuals who are well versed in Laura Ingalls Wilder and the people who come to see the places she describes in her books. Many of them have been very supportive of our efforts to bring the story of Mary and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School to life.
There is a group of volunteer women who have been making corn cob dolls for us as a means to raise money and awareness of our project. These dolls are styled after one told about in an Ingalls Wilder book. The dolls are truly lovely, and we sincerely appreciate each stitch these volunteers have made for us. We have another volunteer who designed a post card depicting the school and Mary at the time she attended here and a bookmark showing Mary with a panoramic view of Vinton. These bookmarks are printed with “Vinton through Mary Ingalls’ Eyes” and then also have this phrase written in Braille. We have received many very positive comments on all these souvenir items. All are available at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.
A program about Mary and the school was created and presented to the parent group attending the Spring Conference at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. It met with very favorable reviews. This program will also be presented to two groups coming to tour the school in September.
Work was begun on the script for a Mary Ingalls Pageant at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. The script must meet with the approval of the Ingalls Wilder Heritage Trust, and we are currently in negotiations with them regarding this project. ACT I, the local Community Theatre group, has agreed to offer their assistance in the theatrical details of the production once a script is approved.
This is where we ask for your assistance. The pageant is a big project that will need many hands and dollars to bring it to life. We would love to have anyone interested in knowing more about the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society to come to our meeting at 9:00 a.m. August 29, 2013 in Old Main on the IBSSS campus. If you cannot make that date, we meet at 9:00 a.m. on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. If you cannot offer time or assistance but would like to make a donation, please make them payable to VCF/IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society. They can be sent to IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society, Box 326, Vinton, Iowa 52349.
The membership of the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society for 2012 – 2013:
Don and Gwen Eells
Michael and Carolyn Hibbs
Jonathan and Cheryl Cullick
Michael and Diane Carrelli
George and Barbara Hawkins
Little House Site Tours
Robert and Molly Noren
John and Jackie Schottmer
Richard and Mary Beth Young
Dean and Nancy Beckman
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