GREGORY -- Jerry Wilske first learned the name Oscar Micheaux in 2001 from a magazine ad at an Iowa City laundromat.

The ad was for the Oscar Micheaux Film Festival, which was an annual event held in Gregory. Micheaux was an African American who homesteaded in the Gregory area before becoming an author and one of the country's first major African American filmmakers.

"Out of curiosity, I went," Wilske said.

Wilske had been to other film festivals, but found himself especially taken in by Micheaux and the film festival.

"This one, I sensed, had a different flavor to it," he said.

He enjoyed talking with the people at the film festival and learning about Micheaux and the history of the Gregory area, he said.

"I came, and I was fascinated with the man and with the festival itself," he said. "It was totally unique."

In 2005, Wilske opened the Oscar Micheaux Center. The building and small park is in downtown Gregory, and became the site of the annual film festival.

Wilske put much of his own time and money into the center, which includes a library and theater, an outdoor garden and walk of fame.

"I tried to make the park beautiful," he said. "It's something Gregory didn't have."

But after dedicating years to the film festival and the center, Wilske, 73, has decided to move on. At an auction Saturday in Gregory, Wilske sold many miscellaneous items -- electronics, appliances, tools, books, furniture and decorations -- that had collected at the center over the years.

None of the Micheaux memorabilia was sold at the auction because Wilske hopes it can still be displayed in the building once a new owner is found, or be displayed elsewhere.

Wilske is still in the process of selling the building and outdoor garden, which were not up for sale at the auction. He said about six people are interested in purchasing the property.

Wilske hopes to finalize the sale of the property in the near future, but is unsure exactly when that will happen.

The building, a former bank and post office, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I hope (the buyer) keeps the integrity of this restoration and doesn't change anything," Wilske said.

Wilske is working with an attorney to determine if he can rent or lease space within the building to show items he hopes the buyer will keep on display.

Wilske plans to move near Iowa City, he said, and may volunteer at a new live theater in that area. Despite the move, Wilske, a retired professor, is not leaving behind his passion for Micheaux.

"This is just another turn in the road," he said.

The film festival itself, which was canceled earlier this year due to a lack of financial support, will return in 2014, according to Richard Papousek.

Papousek, of Colome, is one of the people involved in starting the film festival in the 1990s.

Interest in the film festival has waned in recent years, Papousek said.

"Something like this, it just doesn't appeal to everybody," he said. "And I never expected it to become that."

Locals stopped coming because the event was largely the same from year to year, Papousek said, and out-of-towners have found it difficult to get to Gregory because of its rural location.

Next year, the festival will be held Aug. 8, 9 and 10, and will take place in Colome instead of Gregory, Papousek said.

"We're going to revitalize the festival," he said. "We're going to pick the best parts of the old festival and expand on those areas."