In a earlier blog entry you met Edwin L. Kaewell, a Civil War reenactor who endured near hundred degree temperatures in his replica Union woolen uniform for four days at the recent Burlington County Farm Fair July 20-23, 2011, as he tried to recruit new volunteers for his reenactment unit based on the 23rd NJ Regiment Volunteer Infantry known as the Jersey Yahoos.
Another soldier of an earlier era cheerfully explained to onlookers how to load and fire a Revolutionary War type flintlock firearm. Jeff Macechak, Education Director at the Burlington County Historical Society, demonstrated the weapon at several intervals throughout the day right outside our History Faire tent. And I couldn’t help from jumping every time he did it.
Jeff’s flintlock demo was the centerpiece of the special exhibit that members of the Children’s History Center at Burlington County Historical Society created that obviously held appeal for kids of all ages. The Children’s History Center knows how to tailor hands-on local history lessons to the interests of school groups and families.
With my short-sleeved shirt and cold drink in hand, I felt like a piker watching another sergeant overdressed for the weather carrying out his duties without complaint. But here he was, pitching his history-lesson-in-disguise to the kids, explaining terms like “flash in the pan” and inviting them to smell the rotten egg odor of the sulfur after firing the weapon. Here’s a video I shot with my iPhone of Jeff loading and firing the flintlock musket.
I went back to my perch beside the fan in the tent and my thoughts wandered to past family vacations and day-trips to Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Boston, Washington, DC, Plymouth Plantation, St. Augustine, and other such historic sites.
I guess because I grew up with my grandmother taking me to New York City in 1957 to see the Mayflower II, it seemed natural for me to take my own kids to see the same ship at Plimouth Plantation 30-odd years later. I grew up with a love of history, even if I was not always a fan of the school version of history. With all the uncertainty about our future, do you think there is still a value in emphasizing our history?
My kids probably thought that all parents planned such educational outings. They took it well because they knew that after that next Civil War battlefield might be a stopover at Busch Gardens, Sea World, or Disneyworld.
I was gratified to see that many parents took the road less traveled at the County Fair, away from the amusements and food vendors, and ventured over to our History Faire tent with progeny in tow. If you attended, what did you think of our first History Faire? And what ideas or suggestions do you have for the next? I know at least that I’ll need to bring a bigger cooler and more ice. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor