All fun and games: Comstock House hosts lawn party series

MOORHEAD -- Matt Eidem, site manager of Comstock House, wants people to know that the grass is always greener -- on the south side of the historic Moorhead home.
Matt Eidem (left), site manager of the Comstock House, and Markus Krueger, programming director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, play kubb on Thursday, June 7, 2018, on the lawn of the Comstock House in Moorhead. Erin Bormett / The Forum

MOORHEAD - Matt Eidem, site manager of Comstock House, wants people to know that the grass is always greener - on the south side of the historic Moorhead home.

The facility kicks off a new season of Lawn Games and Local Beer this Thursday, June 14, as a way to get people to experience the site.

Eidem says so many people have experienced the interior of the house, but not as many have spent time outside on the property, 506 Eighth St. S.

"I'm trying to create a gathering space. One of the greatest assets is all of this green space," Eidem says one recent morning, standing in the dewy grass. "Summer is hot, and asking someone to sit inside and listen to a lecture seems cruel."

While the interior may be a little stuffy on a hot day, Markus Krueger, programming director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, which oversees the property, says the Queen Anne Revival-style of the 1883 structure lends itself to the outdoor events.

"The lawn as we know it, and lawn games, started in the Victorian era," he says.

The series started a few summers ago and has grown steadily. In addition to Rustica selling locally crafted beers, Pico food truck will be selling food at this week's event.

Even the selection of games has expanded this year, casting a broader cultural net. In addition to more popular contests like croquet, there will be kubb (Swedish), m'lkky (Finnish), skittles (English) and bocce (Italian).

Krueger first came across kubb years ago at the Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festival and took such an interest in it that he traveled around Minnesota to kubb tournaments. The game features two opponents facing off behind a line of wooden posts with their opposition trying to knock them down by flipping sticks.

While some maintain that kubb dates back to the Vikings, m'lkky has only been around for two decades. It's played by participants trying to knock over pins, numbered 1 through 12, to reach a score of 50, no higher.

Krueger fashioned the m'lkky pins from a tree on the Comstock compound.

While you may think of the colorful candy when you hear "skittles," the game is actually a precursor to bowling as we know it.

"Before bowling was played inside with 10 pins, it was played outside with nine pins," Krueger says.

The game varies from region to region, even within England, so Krueger made some adaptations for a Red River version.

"Moorhead skittles has the scale of London skittles and the scoring of west country skittles," he says.

Instead of rolling a ball, participants roll a thick wheel that looks like a wheel of cheese. The pins are placed on a board to help them stand upright.

"The sound of the slap of wood-on-wood is kind of satisfying," Krueger explains

Game on.

If you go

What: Lawn Games and Local Beer

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every other Thursday from June 14 through Aug. 23

Where: Comstock House, 506 Eighth St. S., Moorhead

Info: Admission is free, with beer and food available for purchase; www.hcscconline.org