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Hormel family was about musical engagement

Music was a big part of George Hormel’s life. In the newly-published “The Open Road” which is available for sale at the Hormel Historic Home, George recounted the many times his family engaged with music as a form of entertainment.

An excerpt from “The Open Road” referred to George’s childhood memories of life in Toledo in the years following the Civil War. He described how music created an activity for kids and how it influenced their understanding of the world they lived in.

“And we made music. The war had popularized the fife and drum. Almost every group of neighborhood youngsters organized a fife and drum corps. This was not hard to do. A round cheese box, such as could be obtained at any grocery store for the asking, made a fine drum frame. We scraped these boxes smooth with bits of glass, then took them took to a paint shop to be shellacked. We prepared the drum heads ourselves at the tannery. During the long summer evenings, all the children in our neighborhood congregated on a vacant lot near our home, attracted by the sound of my brother Henry’s fife, accompanied by four snare drums. Here we marched and sang the songs men had so lately made immortal on their country’s battle fields. And somehow we knew what those songs meant. We knew that many of the men who had sung them before us had also died, had died to make us “free”: free to play on a vacant lot together whether we were white or black, Jew or Gentile, and to go to school and to call ourselves ‘the sons of liberty’. These were the freedoms we understood.”

One of Austin’s great musical groups of the past, Tichy’s Orchestra, received mention in George’s autobiography. Referring to his early years in Austin, George listed several opportunities for people to participate in and enjoy artistic endeavors. Tichy’s group led the 1908 Hormel Company parade so George obviously enjoyed their music. Turn of the century newspapers were full of Tichy performances.

Because of the Hormel family’s and George’s appreciation and recognition of the power of music, the Hormel Historic Home continues to make music for the community a priority. The events are sponsored by George’s great-niece MarySue Hormel Harris whose grandfather, Ben Hormel, sang bass when the family joined their voices. Our summer is filled with opportunities to hear musicians share the stories of life through song. On Monday, you can help nationally recognized musician and storyteller, Charlie Maguire, create a song that will represent a part of Austin’s history. Help him write the song during the day then return at 6:30 to hear it performed.

What’s happening at the HHH

Charlie Maguire: Free songwriting workshop

2 p.m., Monday

Use your own creativity to help Charlie compose a song using Minnesota’s unique history. You will hear about Charlie’s experiences and learn how to use stories to write meaningful songs. Geared toward those 10 and up, but all ages welcome. Free

6:30 p.m. Free Peace Garden Concert

Known as the “Singing Ranger,” Maguire tells stories of our state’s past and sings the praises of our many natural resources. His Woody Guthrie style of singing will bring out the folk music lover in all.

Free Kids Koncert: Tricia and the Toonies

2:30 p.m., Monday, June 19

Tricia and the Toonies perform family friendly fun and interactive musical comedies with a unique use of music, puppets, skits, and audience participation. Show followed by free ice cream sponsored by Belles