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Past is present at 2nd Pa. faire

September 25, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER/Staff Correspondent

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - To understand today, Tad Miller says you have to understand yesterday.

Clad head-to-toe in the uniform and gear of a Colonial soldier, this docent at the Smithsonian Institute's American History Museum shared his knowledge of Colonial America on Sunday from behind the barrel of gun.

Miller was one of 10 re-enactors at the Conococheague Institute in Mercersburg to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War at the second annual Colonial Farm & Craft Faire.

Held on the historic grounds of the Rock Hill Farm, the faire is an educational experience, according to institute activities director Gay Buchanan.

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Visitors to the event Sunday spent the day talking to living historians, local historians, artisans and Colonial buffs who shared a knowledge and love of history that was as thick as the humid air.

Institute president Dr. John Stauffer said he donated the farm to the institute to educate the public about local history, which fascinates him.

"I am interested in how my ancestors lived back then," said the retired physician who resides in California.

Stauffer said he donated the farm and helped to create a genealogy library on site so that anyone with ties to Franklin, Fulton or Washington counties could trace their history.

Buchanan and Mary Hartman, secretary for the Conococheague Institute, worked to organize Sunday's faire, which featured handicraft vendors, Colonial food, re-enactors and musicians, as well as the farm's three historic buildings.

This year, the faire celebrated the anniversary of the French and Indian War by having re-enactors and living historians camp on the site. Miller and his unit, the Colonial forces of Capt. Joshua Beall, patrolled the farm for two days as if in pursuit of a French and Indian raiding party, while speaking to visitors about the war.

Organizers estimated about 250 people came to the faire, saying they were pleased but not surprised with the turnout.

"If this was a gorgeous fall day, we would have seen more people," Hartman said. "But I don't know if we could have handled them."

Some visitors even traveled to the area just to spend their weekend at the faire.

John Robin Loach came from Suffolk County, England, to visit friends and make his annual trip to a Conococheague Institute event. A member of the institute, Loach considers the area his "second home."

Visitors lauded the faire with some saying that they would be back next year.

"Hats off to them," Loach said. "This is just great."

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