History on Tap: Women in the Wild

Koochiching County Historical Society will go on the road Nov. 14 to Northome to encourage the community to participate in the “History on Tap” programs.

“History on Tap,” the beloved program from Koochiching County Historical Society, is expanding in its third year.

Ashley LaVigne of Koochiching County Museums wants to expand the loyal fanbase to include more communities within Koochiching County, she said.

The popular public program is an informal, podcast-style discussion, led by society staff and local historians hosted in Loony’s Brew Pub in Ranier.

This set up allows patrons to enjoy a cold local brew, browse exhibits provided by the society, and encourages discussion and reminiscences of days gone by. Programs are hosted on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, LaVigne said.

New this year, the “History on Tap” program will be going on the road to Northome.

Starting with an informational session at the Northome Municipal Building on Nov. 14. at 6 p.m., LaVigne seeks to inform the community of Northome about the program, encourage participation, and ease any fears residents may have of public speaking.

“The program works because we have local people presenting and a lot of people don’t like public speaking, you know? So, we thought it might be a good idea for me to bring down a full exhibit and show some video footage from one of our shows so people can actually see what it’s like and how informal it really is,” she said.

Then, regular “History on Tap” programming will begin in Northome in January, in rotation with regular events at Loony’s in Ranier.

LaVigne is hopeful that some of the loyal fanbase from the area will make the trip to Northome for the program.

“We’re hoping that this sort of creates a bridge between communities,” LaVigne said.

“There’s a lot of people here who have never been to Northome, and they’ve lived (in the Falls) their whole lives,” she said.

We wanted to bring the program to Northome because their community is so enthusiastic about history and new programs, and they’ve been so welcoming and kind to our staff. They’re interested and eager to share about their history, she said.

LaVigne wants to shift focus to county history that covers the communities outside of just International Falls and Ranier.

“There’s more. There’s 3,154 square miles of us,” she said.

History on Tap will also cross the border, bringing the popular prohibition history program to the Fort Frances Museum on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m., with an emphasis on Canada’s provincial prohibition and U.S.-Canadian relations during the time.

The first regular-season “History on Tap” at Loony’s will be held the second Thursday in December, centering around a presentation from an Ojibwe woman from Fort Frances, she said.

“It’s going to be a non-traditional ‘History on Tap;’ she’s going to share native legends and talk about what it was like living a more traditional Ojibwe lifestyle,” LaVigne said.

In January, there will be “History on Tap” programs in Northome and in Ranier.

“We’re kicking around the idea of doing an Icebox Days ‘History on Tap,’” LaVigne said.

While a full lineup of the season hasn’t been set in stone yet, LaVigne said she knows some of the topics will include legends of Rainy Lake, ‘Women in the Wild’ part III and early transportation.

“We’ve sort of been working in a linear timeline (with the presentations) for ‘History on Tap.’ Some of the topics overlap, and that was done intentionally because when people start to hear names over and over again they start to make connections, they start to remember and they start to piece the story together,” she said.

“It’s clear that they’re getting something out of it.”

The program has grown so much since its beginning in 2017, LaVigne recalls during many presentations, Loony’s became full to capacity and people had to be turned away at the door.

“I had people sitting on the floor,” she said of the last ‘Women in the Wild’ program.

While the program keeps growing, LaVigne asserts she has no intention of changing the program location from Loony’s.

“When I first started talking to people about the program, people didn’t really seem all that into it. When I brought it up to Paul and Matt (Kavan, owners of Loony’s) they were like, ‘Yeah! Talking about history at a bar would be really exciting,’” LaVigne said.

“They took a chance to allow us to do our program, and it’s one of the oldest buildings in Ranier, so it seems really fitting,” she said.

The season will begin with programs in December and conclude at the beginning of the summer.

Continued expansion

LaVigne is open to bringing the program to even more communities within Koochiching County.

“I would totally do ‘History on Tap’ with Littlefork or Big Falls or wherever else,” she said.

As long as people in the community are willing to share their pictures and their history, the program could be successful there, she said.

Volunteers who present at “History on Tap” programs are provided information and materials from Koochiching County museums for their topic.

“When we started ‘History on Tap,’ the point was to bring the museum to the people, and make history more accessible,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of research and it costs a lot of money, but we don’t want that to prevent us from going new places either.”

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