By LIZ VERLEY, Staff Writer
Dave and Arlis Pesta of rural Long Prairie have three children and five grandchildren. In the corner of a field on their property, Dave has created “Grandpa’s Playground,” a place where any child could enjoy hours and hours of fun.
Although he is not sure of how it came about, it began in 2000 with the construction of a bridge across a small ravine on Pesta’s property. Next came a tunnel through the side of the hill with the entrance resembling a mine.
The second year, a 30- foot Harveststore Silo with a staircase to the top where one can stop and look out across the countryside, became the destination of the tunnel.
Pesta said, “I have always been fascinated with tunnels. They are so cool. When I was a kid, I used to make tunnels, even in the hay, so this was a natural thing for me. This one ends up in the silo which is lit up inside by a skylight.”
Atop the silo is a star which is lit during the Christmas season.
“No playground is complete without a flag and flag pole,” said Pesta. Since he is a fan and collector of John Deere memorabilia, a John Deere flag flies above the playground. In the background is a windmill.
“Of course, once you start a project such as this, you just can’t stop. There is always something to find to add to it,” he said.
Pesta’s prize possession at Grandpa’s Playground is a wooden merry-go-round which originally came from the Pleasant Valley District 25 School at Clotho. The school closed in the early 1970s.
Both Pesta and his father, Jim, attended the Pleasant Valley School and both have fond memories of hours of fun on the merry-go-round.
“I was so thrilled to get the merry-go-round, just because of the history my family had with it,” said Pesta.
The playground also has a smaller merry-go-round and one of the two slides that came originally from St. Mary’s School in Long Prairie.
“I found that merry-go-round while attending a funeral,” said Pesta. “I had to promise to get it up and running before I was allowed to take it home. I had to cut the trees away that had grown around it before it could be moved. Brought it home, repaired it and it now is in good working order.”
One of the latest additions Pesta created to add to the ongoing development at “Grandpa’s Playground” is a double teeter- totter with a base of steam engine wheels from his father’s farm. “It is so satisfying to create something out of something old that has historic value,” said Pesta, the family historian.
There is also a teeter-totter painted John Deere green and yellow on the site. Pesta, who enjoys history, can tell you where each piece of his playground equipment came from. He has found some of his equipment on eBay and K-Bid and also by word of mouth.
Scattered around the area are benches where one can watch, rest, relax and enjoy looking over the playground.
At the present time, Pesta is completing the installation of a dolphin, horse and elephant that are mounted on springs. He found them at Millerville.
Pesta is also the proud owner of six John Deere tractors and one restored Ford tractor.
One of his accomplishments has been to restore a 1939 B John Deere that belonged to his father. “Dad said I spent more money restoring it than he had paid for it, but now it belongs to my youngest son and oldest grandson,” he said.
Besides his outside equipment, he has an extensive collection of smaller items in his home, including several items he had as a boy.
Family historian, playground developer and collector, are just a few of the hats Pesta wears. By profession he is a cross country truck driver, hauling machinery, packaging equipment, windmills, etc. He has trucked for 37 years.
Arlis works at Dan’s Prize in Browerville.
Pesta promises to keep looking for equipment to add to Grandpa’s Playground. His present goal is to find a slippery circular slide. He recently bid on one, but it got away.
“I am not giving up. I am determined to find one,” he said.
“We have enjoyed having our grandchildren, family members’ children and neighbor children enjoy the playground. Sometimes even strangers come in off the highway to play,” said Pesta. “I plan to continue finding new things to add. It is fun.”