Dobby’s Frontier Town recently hosted its annual fall festival.
Hundreds of people visited the collection of historic buildings along 25th Street September 21-22. Volunteers spent many hours preparing for the celebration, which featured music, food and vendors.
The site contains about two dozen buildings highlighting Alliance and area history from about a century ago. One of my favorite aspects of Dobby’s is how it fits into the reduce-reuse-recyle triangle. Over the past three decades the town has grown significantly through the reuse of materials, buildings and historical materials and artifacts.
Visitors can stop by the town year-round, however it really comes to life during the fall festival. People in period clothing mingle in the crowd -- the Dobby’s Frontier Towners who maintain and grow the site. There are old timey photos and wagon rides. Sunday brought storytelling and songs by a Nebraska Humanities speaker.
Reuse of the buildings features extensive restoration of original structures as well as new construction over the years, such as the town’s jail. One of the most impressive examples of this commitment to history is the church. The building was moved onto the grounds and restored over months by volunteers. Jesus kneels in a painting on the south wall. A rope extends from the ceiling to ring the bell, gathering people to functions in the sanctuary. The wooden floors that hosted a congregation now welcome visitors learning about Nebraska history and folklore.
There is a story behind every building and the thousands of artifacts they contain. Small items give visitors an idea of how the structures served the community. A one-room schoolhouse looks like students should be sitting at the desks. Wares fill the general store. Items hanging from the ceiling have been gone from local homes for decades.
Each building has its own theme. Some are specific recreations of Alliance businesses, such as Rex’s Hamburgers. The rest show important businesses from the turn of the last century: print shop, cobbler, gas station, dress shop, post office, candy store, undertaker, doctor’s office, and others. Daily life can be found in the cabin of an African American homesteader and a hay bale house.
Dobby’s Frontier Town always has a new project in the works. One of the buildings was originally a barracks at the Alliance Army Air Base. Part of the space is being retrofitted to look like it did when airmen lived there during World War II. A livery stable is under construction near the saloon. The first trusses are in place on the second story. The family home of Dobby Lee, who founded the tourist attraction, is in the process of becoming a museum itself.
I suggest a visit to this frontier town to the many local residents who have never experienced it. The reuse of artifacts in this setting is a valuable snapshot of history.