A Victorian evening

The front lawn of the Smeltzer House was alive with activity Tuesday evening, much like it might have been when one of the home’s namesakes, Ann Smeltzer, was a young girl nearly a century ago.

Picnic blankets covered the grass as families gathered to share supper together, and the sound of children playing filled the yard as they took part in old-fashioned games .

During the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust Education Committee’s fifth annual family Victorian evening, the 175 children and their families in attendance took in a magic show performed by local magician Larry Dunbar before enjoying a picnic and games.

Connor Thoma, of Fort Dodge, not only took part in the evening’s activities, he was part of the featured entertainment. The 8-year-old has been doing magic tricks since he was 3 years old, and has become a regular Dunbar assistant.

Thoma impressed many children his own age as he demonstrated the art of sword swallowing during the show. With the help of his grandpa, Joe Thoma, Connor Thoma swallowed the nearly foot-long sword with ease.

The trick to successful sword swallowing?

“You just don’t eat much before,” he said.

Jayden Ray,9, also had the opportunity to assist Dunbar in a card trick by ripping through playing cards.

“Ripping the cards, that was fun,” said Ray.

Ethan Ballard, 10, also assisted with the entertainment by volunteering to be part of a sword trick. Ballard didn’t flinch as Dunbar placed swords through a collar around Ballard’s neck.

“I’ve done it before,” he said. “I’m a pro.”

Following the magic show and picnic, all of the children participated in games such as sack races, three legged races, egg and spoon racing and a bean bag toss, and gift certificates to several local businesses were given as door prizes.

“This is a great way to bring kids out with their families for fun and some old fashioned games,” said Delpha Holtzman, chair of the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust Education Committee. “I think Ann would be thrilled to see the grounds of the house used this way. She loved children.”