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Bever Park windmill gets face-lift

High school junior tackles it for his Eagle Scout project

Ben Jennett of Cedar Rapids, 17, steadies the blades of a windmill as it is lifted off a truck for installation at Old MacDonald’s Farm in Bever Park in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 11, 2018. Jennett restored the historic windmill for his Eagle Scout project this year. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Ben Jennett of Cedar Rapids, 17, steadies the blades of a windmill as it is lifted off a truck for installation at Old MacDonald’s Farm in Bever Park in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 11, 2018. Jennett restored the historic windmill for his Eagle Scout project this year. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Old MacDonald’s Farm at Bever Park recently opened for the season and among all the animals, visitors can now also check out the newly restored historic windmill.

Located right near the main entrance to Old MacDonald’s Farm, the long-standing windmill recently underwent a face-lift thanks to Boy Scout Ben Jennett of Troop 766.

Jennett, a 17-year-old junior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, decided to take on the windmill restoration for his Eagle Scout project.

“When I saw it, I decided it looked like something I could do, even though it was big,” he said. “I liked the scale of it. It was something that would really be seen and make a difference at Old MacDonald’s Farm.”

The first step was to remove the windmill from the farm, which Jennett and his team of helpers did in November.

“We decided we’d take it back to my house to work on it in our detached garage,” he said, noting that they transported it in two pieces.

“Then we had to grind all the rust and paint off of it,” he added, noting the cold weather didn’t help the project move along any quicker. Jennett had help from his father and uncle for the grinding, which took much longer than Jennett expected.

“Once all the grinding was taken care of, I had help from a couple of other scouts to do the painting,” he said, noting that each moving part now had three coats of specialized paint on it. “We made sure it was very thorough because we don’t want it to get rusty again.” The tail fin on the windmill was recreated because it was too heavily damaged to repaint.

Despite all the work they put into restoring the windmill, Jennett said he was surprised at the good condition of the windmill given that it dates to the 1880s.

Having finished the project just a few weekends ago, the refurbished windmill was reinstalled at Old MacDonald’s Farm this past week. Coonrod Crane and Wrecker Service brought in a crane to hoist the fully assembled windmill back into its place of honor at the farm. A group of onlookers watched in awe as it was maneuvered into place. Then Jennett strapped on his harness and climbed to the top — not a small feat given his slight fear of heights — to put the full assembly back together.

“It felt really good to have it back there because to me it’s an icon on the farm,” Jennett said. “To have that old of a piece back in place there is pretty cool.”

The staff at Old MacDonald’s Farm could not be happier with the outcome. Megan Lopata, animal exhibit coordinator at Old MacDonald’s Farm, said the windmill is a crowd-pleaser.

“When I walk in and see that windmill, what I consider kind of the starting point for the farm, it’s neat to see. And kids love to see it spin in the wind. To have it restored is so cool.”

While the windmill does not pump water — there are major structural issues that would require extensive work for that to happen — having it restored and looking fresh and bright is a huge visual enhancement for the park, Lopata said.

And working with teens to get a project like this completed is so rewarding, she added.

“The Jennett family has been a huge asset for us,” said Lopata, noting that Jennet’s older brother completed his Eagle Scout project at Old MacDonald’s Farm as well. “They do the project completely themselves, and they always turn out phenomenal. I’ve loved working with the scouts and their families.”

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Jennett, who has been involved with scouting since second grade, said he is proud now that the project is complete.

“I’m glad it was a service project and that we have to do something like this to achieve our Eagle Scout because it’s good to give back to the community, and I’m glad I was able to do it.”

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