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Colonial Fair a 'treasure' that offers hands-on history

September 12, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Debra Taylor and 6-year-old Avery Trusky watch Sunday as Chris Holmgren demonstrates woodworking during the sixth annual Colonial Fair at Conococheague Institute in Welsh Run, Pa.
By Jennifer Fitch,

WELSH RUN, Pa. -- Sometimes as he operates a primitively designed spring pole lathe, people ask Chris Holmgren if he bought the mechanism.

"Yes, at Sears," he'll say as his foot repeatedly presses a pedal.

The pedal powers a series of branches and string to turn the lathe, allowing him to shape wood for furniture.

For the people who don't understand Holmgren's joke, he goes one step further and recommends that people ask for the "Old Time Tools catalog" next time they're at Sears.

"I just hate seeing the disconnect in this country between crafts and handiwork, and what's going on today," said Holmgren, of Dickerson, Md.

Holmgren was one of about 15 exhibitors during the sixth annual Colonial Fair hosted this weekend by Conococheague Institute. Visitors could see interpretations of life in the 1700s, and attend a speech, dance and rifle demonstrations, and a church service.

"We really have more vendors than we had in previous years," said Debra Taylor, president of the institute's board.

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She estimated the site off Bain Road had 400 to 500 visitors Saturday. When ominous clouds cleared Sunday afternoon, crowds started to grow after an initially slow start.

"We love the history, and if we don't share it, it's going to die," said Elissa Parish, who demonstrated how to make cording for clothing.

Her husband, Paul, talked to visitors about how the country was first surveyed. He showed off the tools and maps he's used to replicate that process. One map showed the early design of Keyser, W.Va.

"You've got things in museums they can look at, but here they can pick it up and learn," Paul Parish said.

Early surveyors spread chains on the ground to start marking off lots, Paul Parish said. Often they relied on natural features like trees and rivers, he said.

Colonists gathered once a year to walk property lines and reinforce what land belonged to which person, he said.

Susan Matson and Barbara J. Peshkin sat together in a tent, where Matson made baskets and Peshkin painted. Both said they enjoy the institute's work and the Colonial Fair.

"I think it's a real treasure," said Peshkin, of Chambersburg, Pa.

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