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Frontier Village greeters make visitors feel welcome

John M. Steiner / The Sun Alice Boeckel, left, a greeter at the Frontier Village, visits with a couple of tourists Thursday on the boardwalk.1 / 2
Chris Olson / The Sun Jon Liechty and his children Jeffrey, Sherry Owen and Jeania Lambeth, donated about $10,000 for a new heating and cooling system, doors, tables and chairs for Eldridge Hall in Frontier Village. A doll collection Liechty’s late wife, Fern, collected throughout her life is on display in the hall. 2 / 2

The Frontier Village in Jamestown has been around almost as long as the World’s Largest Buffalo.

A collection of historical buildings from Jamestown and the surrounding area, the Frontier Village is located just east of the Jamestown Tourism office at 404 Louis L’Amour Lane. Along with historical facts about each building, the Frontier Village Association employs greeters during the summer months to welcome visitors to the village.

Betty Mahlke, Jamestown, and Charlotte Grohnke, Wimbledon, are friends who work as greeters for the village. The greeters are paid $9 an hour while Grohnke as the head greeter is paid $10. The other greeters are Bill Busch, Mary Beth Olombel and Alice Boeckel. The greeters have two volunteers as well, Albert Boeckel and Larry Mahlke.

Grohnke said the job of a greeter is to be out in the village, welcoming visitors and make themselves available to answer questions.

“It’s not that we only greet people, we tell them all about Jamestown and the area, what there is to see and do here,” she said. “Plus, we keep the place clean.”

There is usually one greeter on duty during a six-hour shift, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Colleen Conley, Frontier Village manager, said the greeters also tell visitors about places to stay and eat in Jamestown and the surrounding area as well.

Betty Mahlke said she started with the volunteers in 2010 when Grohnke had to step away to help her husband who was battling an illness.

“I love being around people. There is always something interesting happening up at the village,” she said.

Grohnke said she first got acquainted with the village back in 2002 when she joined the White Cloud Crafters. The group meets in Mary’s House, a house owned by Mary Schmidt, that was donated to the village in 1984. The house sits next to Eldridge Hall, just inside the entrance to the village.

Grohnke said the crafters were meeting when the village manager at that time asked if any of the crafters wanted to be greeters.

“He asked if we were willing to work, so here I am,” she said.

Mahlke and Grohnke said they really enjoy their job when a tour bus pulls into the village. Mahlke said recently a bus pulled in that was full of people from Germany and France. The group was taking a farm tour of the United States.

“It was interesting to hear where they were from and what they thought of North Dakota and America,” she said.

With good weather on a weekend day there can be 300 people visiting the village, Grohnke said.

“Especially if there is a shootout, she said.

The shootouts are put on by a group of volunteers, the Wild West Players, in the village. The group of volunteers dress up in “old west” style clothing and take on the personas of people who lived in the frontier days. The group puts on a shootout at 3 p.m. on scheduled Saturdays throughout the summer. The next shootout will be held July 5.

The buildings

Grohnke said she likes all the buildings in the village as they all represent a bit of the history of Jamestown, Stutsman County and North Dakota.

“The village, it represents frontier life,” she said. “It shows how North Dakota was homesteaded.”

Grohnke pointed to Iverson’s cottage, a log cabin built in 1898. The cabin is one medium-sized room, but was home to a family of nine.

“The people who built that cabin raised seven children in there, just imagine,” she said.

Mahlke said the Depot building, which was the first Northern Pacific Railroad depot in Jamestown, is one of the older buildings in the village. It was built in 1880 and used as a depot by the Midland Continental Railroad from 1916 to 1957. In 1965 the building was donated and moved to the Frontier Village.

The first building that was moved into the village is the school building. The school was built in 1883 in Sinclair Township, and donated to the village by Reese Hawkins and his family in 1965.

The first building visitors approach when they walk or drive through the iron gates of the village is Eldridge Hall. The building was originally the Eldridge Township Hall, then was donated by the Eldridge community to the village. The hall recently has been upgraded with a new heating and cooling system, new doors, tables and chairs, all donated by Jon Liechty and his children, Jeffrey, Sherry Owen and Jeania Lambeth.

Jon Liechty said the family was looking for a place to put a doll collection his late wife, Fern, had collected throughout her life. The couple was married 57 years and took a lot of trips overseas.

“She always had to have a doll from everywhere we went,” Liechty said.

Liechty said he and his wife traveled to 40 countries on five continents as they were doing mission work. At one point Fern Liechty had 200 dolls in the collection.

Liechty said having a secure, controlled environment for the dolls was very important to him and his children.

“We didn’t want them to go to nothing,” he said.

The dolls are on display in Eldridge Hall.

For more information about the Frontier Village, go to www.tourjamestown.com.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454
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