Heritage and history highlighted in Piatt barn tour
John Leischner's barn is more than a place where a pony makes its home, it's a building that has been in the family for generations.
Leischner's father inherited the barn at 2038 N. 500 East, DeLand, from his uncle. Now the barn is under the care of Leischner and his siblings.
The family barn will be shared with the public during the 12th annual Piatt County Museum Barn Tour on Friday through Sunday.
What began as a one-day excursion to barns scattered throughout the county has developed into an award-winning three-day festival highlighting one township in Piatt County annually.
"A group of people with the museum wanted to highlight what we thought were the few barns in Piatt County. It started as something very small and now it's a three-day educational event," barn tour organizer Peg Bargon said.
Leischner's barn, which is in the process of being restored, will be one of 22 sites on this year's tour which will take visitors along a 35-mile historic and scenic route through Goose Creek Township.
Guests will have the opportunity to visit 20 barns, the majority built by two men, barnwrights Rueben and Earl Kidd, a father and son combination. The pair built barns from the 1930s through the 1950s when they lived in the area.
Other sites on the tour include centennial farms and other historic sites, including part of a trail traveled by Abraham Lincoln while he practiced law as a circuit-rider throughout central Illinois.
This year, three of the stops are cemeteries in the area. Bargon said Kentuck Cemetery is the most exciting cemetery stop since it has been completely rehabbed by local resident John Heider.
Bargon said most of this year's sites are those that visitors can get out of their vehicle and visit. There are only three to four drive-by sites.
Besides seeing the dazzling display of barns, most stops will also feature other unique opportunities like farm animals, antique tractors, country gardens, fall produce, home-baked goods and other festive agricultural activities.
Leischner's stop in DeLand will feature an impressive display of photographs of historic DeLand and old farming techniques, mostly taken by his grandfather. Leischner also will showcase antique tools and farming equipment.
"Each year the tour gets better for everyone, the farm owners and the public. The farm owners are proud to share their heritage and history. The public does truly appreciate barns in a way they didn't before. There's a value placed on it now," Bargon said.
For the first time in the history of the event, tickets are available ahead of time at Piatt County Farm Bureau, First-Mid Illinois bank branches in Piatt and Macon counties, Doty Jewelry and Macon County Farm Bureau. Maps and an accompanying historical information book for the self-guided tour will be available only on the days of the tour.
Tickets will also be available at the door at the Piatt County Museum's new building site located at One Heritage Lane adjacent to the Monticello Railway Museum from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors may tour until dusk. Money raised by the event goes to the Piatt County Museum.
The Monticello High School FFA is assisting with the barn tour this year. Bargon said the young students brought "a new energy to the project."
They are not the only students involved in the tour. For the second year, fourth-graders from Monticello will travel the barn tour. Along the way, they will also compete in a tractor pedal pull, conduct experiments and do cemetery rubbings.
For more information about the Piatt County Museum and the Piatt County Barn Tour, call 762-4731.