Fundraising underway to refurbish ‘Owandem’

Duane Hicks

The vintage vessel, the “Owandem,” needs a makeover.
But beauty has its price–in this case an estimated $25,000. And that’s where the public comes in.
Fundraising has begun to give the small tug boat (or “bug”) a new paint job and make some repairs, with several ways district residents can donate to help preserve a part of their local heritage, museum curator Sherry George said.
One way to give is to fill out a pledge form.
These forms were sent to local residents with their July utility bills, and already have brought in about $1,100, George noted.
In addition to tax receipts, pledges come with various benefits. And the more you pledge, the greater the benefit.
For instance, someone who pledges $75 (“Deck Hand”) will get an “Owandem” pin and a single museum membership.
Those who donate $2,000 (“Admiral” level sponsorship) will get a pin, family museum membership, a Fort Frances history book, tickets to the fall gala hosted by the “Friends of the Museum,” and a William Tener photo book once they’re ready.
The museum will continue to accept pledges for the rest of the year.
If you missed the pledge form, feel free to drop by the museum and speak with George.
A second way to give is to drop a cash donation in one of the two “Owandem” donation “boxes” that are being placed at various local businesses on a rotating basis.
Keep an eye out for these boxes, handcrafted by “Friend of the Museum” member Eric Fagerdahl, which look just like the “Owandem.”
This is a suitable way to give if you don’t require a tax receipt, noted George.
Just give your pocket change or whatever amount you can spare.
A third way to help out is to donate “unwanted treasures” for the “Keep It Hanging Around” fundraiser at the museum this October.
The public is being asked to donate items such as framed paintings, decorative vases, antique lamps, and other gently-used art that are attractive but their owners no longer have a place for them, said George.
For example, if you’re renovating your house and suddenly you have piece of art or fancy furnishing that no longer goes with your decor, what do you with it?
George suggested donating your gently-used art to the museum in October (Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
“For the month of October, we’ll be collecting whatever people drop off,” she explained. “It will be up right away and there will be silent auction sheets.
“People can come walk in, look around, and bid.”
Then starting on Oct. 10, the silent auction bid sheets will be collected each Tuesday, so folks can drop by often to check on their bids.
Another round of items then will be up for bid until the following Tuesday, through Oct. 31.
George noted the Dryden museum did a similar fundraiser and made $12,000.
“If we can make in that ballpark or even close, that would go a long way towards the ‘Owandem,'” she said.
Yet another way to give will be to attend–and spend money at–the fall gala slated for late October or early November.
The “Friends of the Museum” has discussed putting all of the proceeds from this year’s event towards refurbishing the “Owandem.”
“So we have four fundraising projects for the boat,” enthused George. “Surely, we can raise $30,000.
“I’m hoping.”
The cost to refurbish the boat is roughly estimated at $20,000, with another $5,000-$6,000 needed to pay for the infrastructure around it once it is moved to the waterfront.
If more than enough funds are raised, extra dollars can be used to help fix the “Hallett,” which also needs some fixing up, said George.
“All the panels around all the ‘Hallett’ windows are in nasty shape,” she conceded. “We’re losing windows–they’re falling out.
“The locks are falling off the doors because the wood is so bad,” George added.
“The more we can get, the better,” echoed Fagerdahl.
“The ‘Hallett,’ she needs a new gown.”
George said various local carpenters and other handy folks generously have helped fix the “Hallett” in the past. And once she gets a better idea of what needs to be fixed, she might be looking for a few helping hands.
As previously reported, the “Owandem” was donated to the Fort Frances Museum by the late Arden Erickson Barnes, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain who purchased the boat when it was decommissioned in 1993.
Barnes then ran it on Rainy Lake until shortly before she passed away in 2014.
The boat was brought over the border back on Dec. 22 and taken to the Public Works yard on Wright Avenue by Falls-based Roche’s Towing & Salvage.
There, Shane Armstrong of George Armstrong Co. Ltd. donated use of a crane to move the boat from its trailer.
The “Owandem” has been stored there ever since.
But now in anticipation of its refurbishing, the “Owandem” soon will be transported to Mark Faragher’s shop in Devlin.
Armstrong again has come through by offering to donate his time, staff, and crane to move the boat from the Public Works yard to Faragher’s, noted George.
“Shane has just been awesome,” she remarked.
“He’s really got a good heart and he wants to see this boat placed,” said Fagerdahl, who along with his wife, Caren, facilitated the acquisition of the “Owandem.”
Once at Faragher’s shop, he will sandblast and repaint the “bug” in its original colours–green and white with a little silver, George noted.
Other work will include minor repairs such as replacing window frames, which Fagerdahl said he should be able to do.
“We’re hoping to restore the boat while keeping the historical integrity of the boat intact,” George stressed.
“We’ll look at pictures and paint and refurbish it to how it used to look.”
Once fixed up, the plan is to place the “Owandem” on the La Verendrye Parkway on the piece of land just northeast of the “Hallett.”
The public won’t be able to board the boat, but they will be able to view its interior through shatterproof windows (i.e., Lexan polycarbonate sheets).
“Maybe we will have on each a couple steps they can walk up, and there will be railings all around it,” said George.
“So they can look through the windows but not actually get on it without climbing over the railing.”
Not having the public on the boat not only be safer, but will minimize wear and tear on it.
“It will look nice on the piece of green space there,” said Fagerdahl, noting the smaller boat’s proximity to the “Hallett” will simulate its historical role when it “shepherded” the larger tug on area waters.
Such a scene was commemorated on the now-out-of-circulation $1 bill, with a logging tug and “bug” similar to the “Hallett” and “Owandem” depicted.
George and the Fagerdahls are hoping the refurbished “Owandem” can be in place on the riverfront in time for July 1 next year.
“It’s definitely doable,” Eric Fagerdahl remarked.
“We just need the support of the community to get us through this.”
“And we know that typically, they’re very generous,” noted George. “We’re hoping that will be the case with this.
“This is part of our heritage.”