LINDSBORG, KAN. — The Smoky Valley Roller Mills in central Kansas is preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary at the annual Millfest event held on the first Saturday of May. The volunteer-run celebration will feature a day-long itinerary of family activities relating to the nearby town of Lindsborg’s Swedish heritage and the region’s milling history. Millfest is organized by the staff of the Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum, which is the nonprofit organization that oversees the Smoky Valley Roller Mills' preservation.

While 125 years is a monumental amount of time for a building to stand in one location, the Smoky Valley Roller Mills is in fact the third mill structure built on the site. The first iteration of the mill was a water-powered structure built in 1872 by Charlie “Qvarn” Johnson, but it stood for less than 10 years before flooding and being washed away in 1881. After being rebuilt in 1882 and then expanded in 1886, the mill flooded again in 1891 and then burned down in an 1897 fire. Six months later, master of the mill Theodore Teichgraeber rebuilt the mill that still stands on the site today.

Volunteer mill operators activate the still-functioning mill on a dry run each Millfest for festival guests to observe on guided tours. This year, there will be 10 additional tour guide volunteers who are students in the milling program at Kansas State University. 

Smoky Valley Roller Mills 125th anniversary Millfest announcement.
Source: Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum. 

While every Millfest features programming, this year’s activities will pack an extra punch to commemorate the 125th anniversary mark. At 1:30 pm, there will be a special recognition ceremony, kicked off with the song “Kära Lindsborg Mitt Hem” (translated to: “Dearest Lindsborg My Home”) performed by local elementary students and written by a local couple to honor the town’s Swedish heritage. In a ceremony at 1:30 pm, the Lindsborg mayor will read a special proclamation to declare May 6 as an official Lindsborg city holiday. 

“Apart from the ceremony, we’ll also have food, musical entertainment, and about 20 arts and crafts vendors and demonstrators (everything from hand-carving, to scrimshaw, to blacksmithing and more),” said Adam Pracht, marketing and communications director for the Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum. He added, “(We also) have confirmed: traditional ‘stick and hoop’ races by our historic one-room schoolhouse and painting mini Dala horses (a traditional symbol of Sweden and of Lindsborg).”

Before shutting down in 1955, the mill processed wheat, corn and rye, and also produced some grain-based baking mixes during its over 50-year operation period. After its closure, the mill sat unused for almost half a decade, nearly becoming derelict before steps toward restoration were made by the next series of owners, including the McPherson County and the McPherson County Old Mill Museum. In 2021 the county handed over ownership to the newly established Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum, the 501 (c) 3 organization that preserves and celebrates the Smoky Valley Roller Mills today.

“We really encourage anyone who is interested in history, milling, agriculture, industry, or simply beautiful and wonderful objects (it’s like a work of art in motion) to come and visit, but particularly during Millfest on May 6 this year,” Mr. Pracht said. “Not only is it the one time we’ll be running it in 2023, the milestone this year means we’re working to make it the biggest Millfest we’ve ever had.”