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Sycamore History Museum hosts holiday open house

SYCAMORE – Stacy Kelly drives past the Sycamore History Museum almost daily, yet she had never stepped foot inside.

On Saturday, however, the Sycamore resident decided that it was time she and her 6-year-old son learn about the history of the community.

The two had fun exploring Sycamore’s past while decorating cookies and making holiday ornaments at the museum’s eighth annual Holiday Open House on Saturday afternoon. 

“We wanted to see the exhibits, and it’s been a wonderful visit,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot today, and this is a nice holiday activity. [My son and I] are trying to do as many holiday activities in Sycamore as we can.”

Admission was free for the open house, where visitors could tour the museum, which is filled with exhibits about Sycamore’s past and present, and enjoy treats and wassail, a traditional English holiday drink.

Michelle Donahoe, the museum’s executive director, said the open house is a way to say “thank you” to the community.

“Learning about a community’s history builds pride. We want people to develop that connection to the past,” Donahoe said. “Our exhibits tell amazing stories of people from Sycamore who’ve gone places around the world. We have artifacts made by Sycamore companies and immigrant stories of people who’ve come here from around the world.”

Jayne Higgins, a museum board member and volunteer, said the open house was a good opportunity for people who’ve never been to the museum to visit. She said that the museum’s exhibits change every year, so the open house also is a good chance for those who have visited in the past to come back.  

“We tell the stories of Sycamore. If you don’t understand history, you don’t know where you’re going,” Higgins said. “People in Sycamore are connected through history, and if we understand those connections, we can understand each other better.”

Ray Wedel of Sycamore used to work for a company that put grain in the elevator at the site of the museum years ago, when it was a farm. He said he thought the open house would be a good time to visit.

“I’ve always wanted to visit, but just never stopped. It’s very impressive,” Wedel said. “It’s good to find out who we are as a community and learn about things that happened in the past, and how those things have made Sycamore the tremendous community it is now.”

Linda Van Garsse didn’t grow up in Sycamore, but as a 20-year resident, she has visited the museum several times with her granddaughter, who now is a volunteer. 

“I learn something new every time I come in here. I wasn’t born here, so I’m surprised by how big Sycamore’s connection to the world is. It’s really interesting,” Van Garsse said.

Janet Deja of Sycamore brought her children to enjoy an afternoon of making crafts. She said it was a fun holiday activity for the family.

“We wanted to do crafts and have some cookies,” Deja said. “We also need to learn about our history and be proud of our community. You can get a deeper appreciation of what people who came before us have done.”

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