LONG GROVE, Iowa — The only thing missing was the snow. The Pioneer Village Annual Christmas Walk at the Dan Nagle Walnut Grove Pioneer Village in Long Grove created a Norman Rockwell-type scene Sunday afternoon. Tykes shared their wishes with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus while parents and grandparents listened close by in the Keppy-Nagle General Store.
Among the toddlers who talked to Santa was Kaylee Ramey, 2, who was with her mother, Jordan Pierce, of Moline, and grandmother Roberta Ramey, of Davenport.
Roberta Ramey, who works at the treasurer’s office of Scott County, said it was her family’s first year to attend the Christmas Walk. “I remember coming here as a kid,” she said.
“We came to the ‘shoot-out’ and enjoyed it so much we came back.
“I like that it’s cheap,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a clean, fun event.” She was delighted to find homemade Christmas stockings for $5 each and a wooden handmade baby cradle for $4 that she purchased for her granddaughters to play with her house.
While dozens of families strolled the grounds, visited the old-time buildings and shopped, others munched on kettle corn. Dan Morrell, of LeClaire, operated the LeClaire Kettle Corn Company stand, where sales were constant.
“There’s been a lot of folks through here today,” he said. “The attendance is up more than in past years, I would say. The economy’s been bringing people together a little more — doing the homespun thing a little more rather than traveling.”
Adding music to the festivities was Wayne Stevens, of Davenport, who played Civil War and Old West-era music on his acoustic guitar (Stevens usually has a weapon in his hand when he’s at the Pioneer Village because he is a member of the Wapsi Wranglers).
“I’ve played a little ‘Name that Tune’ with people,” he said, with a repertoire that included “Minstrel Boy,” and “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” “People say I sound like a Ken Burns documentary,” Stevens added.
The weather was a bit brisk, but the only attendant who seemed to mind was Buddy, whose owner, Sabian Hunt, 10, of Moline, kept the dog warm in his arms. Sabian enjoyed the day, particularly the cookies and the “reindeer food” that’s a traditional speciality treat during the walk. “I liked going inside the train, too,” he said.
Site coordinator Deb Leistikow, of Princeton, is a former volunteer at the site. “This is an established event,” she said. “This is an all-volunteer organization, except for me,” she said. She wants to begin attracting even more volunteers who want to learn skills such as carpentry or whittling so that they can demonstrate those talents next year.
In the 1860s, Walnut Grove was a Scott County cross-roads settlement and stage coach stop in the 1860s. The village includes 18 historic buildings, some of which were relocated from rural Scott County.