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Lost History of Woodland Bowl Pageants Is Focus of Search by Student-Faculty Team

 

Menominee pageants, a series of community events last staged more than three decades ago, are currently being researched with hope of reviving the tradition in summer 2016. The original programs were presented in the Woodland Bowl beginning in the 1950s and ended production sometime during the 1970s.

 

The shows may have ended, but memories of them linger in the minds of many area residents who attended or participated in them. Community meetings on April 13 and 27 at the College of Menominee Nation will provide opportunities for those who remember the pageants to help provide information for their revival.

 

The revival effort began about five years ago when Ryan Winn of the CMN faculty was asked by community members to lead an effort to bring back the pageant tradition. Winn, who teaches communication, English, and theater, has directed 17 plays on American Indian themes for CMN over the past decade, including many based on original scripts by CMN students. The goal of Winn’s new project was to help bring back a pageant in Keshena’s Woodland Bowl in conjunction with the tribe’s annual summer contest powwow.

 

Winn did some preliminary investigations on scripts, dates when shows were staged, cast members, and other information. He found that there are only a few records and artifacts available to build on. Last year, he applied for and won a research grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board to fund student intern help for the project. This spring, the intern team of Melinda Cook and Lloyd Frieson secured an award from the College’s Scott Zager Venture Fund to support related research activities.

 

From his initial efforts, Winn learned that the traditional shows were prominent in the 1950s and that the last was staged sometime in the 1970s. He says he also found “that no complete archive exists that showcases the wealth of artifacts those shows likely produced. My goals for 2016 are twofold — to create a complete archive at CMN and stage a traditional pageant in the Woodland Bowl this summer.”

 

Project interns Cook and Frieson, both enrolled Menominee, are now searching through the materials held in the College library’s Special Collections archive, in files at Menominee Historic Preservation, and accessible from various statewide news websites. Winn says, “We have tracked down a few scripts, one of which is incomplete, and some photos, programs and videos, but now we are reaching out to Menominee community members to fill in the gaps in our findings.”

 

To do that, tribal members and others from the area who have scripts, souvenir programs, old photographs, posters, newspaper clippings, or other material are being asked to let the College make a digital copy that can become part of the permanent record. Originals people wish to keep will be returned upon request. Stories and general information are also needed, including the identification of who appeared in pageants or helped with productions.

 

People with artifacts or information are asked to contact Winn or one of the project interns, or to take part in one of the community discussions. Winn says the meetings are for sharing stories to better help the project team understand the significance of the pageants at the time they were produced, identify key players who were involved in their staging, and also to create a historical timeline to document which shows were produced in which years. Winn can be contacted by e-mail at rwinn@menominee.edu or phone at 715-799-6226, ext. 3070.

 

Each of the public sessions is on a Wednesday, April 13 and April 27, and will be held from noon to 2 p.m. in the CMN library building, N172 State Highway 47/55 in Keshena.