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Living in the past: Fort Frederick volunteer prepares for 18th Century Market Fair

April 24, 2013|By JESSICA MANUEL | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Chris Holmgren of Dickerson, Md.
Submitted photo

BIG POOL — Music played, stories told, historical items sold: A lot happens at the 18th Century Market Fair at Fort Frederick, but one man knows about it more than anyone.

Chris Holmgren of Dickerson, Md., is a longtime volunteer and artisan featured at the fair. He does more than his share to keep the past alive.

The Friends of Fort Frederick took over the Market Fair after its initial 11-year run, and Holmgren has been there since the host change. 

“We didn’t want to see it end,” he said. “A herculean effort kept it going.”

He joined the Market Fair board during the second fair put on by the group and is now volunteer coordinator.

Holmgren said a lot of people want to help, but in the end, he has about 50 to 60 volunteers per year who give their time at the fair. Those people aid the committee members, about seven people representing different parts of the event. Volunteers set up early, and during the event, perform jobs such as working with registration, disseminating information at the headquarters tent, or being part of Holmgren’s baby — the road watch: giving directions to visitors.

After suggesting the idea, Holmgren was given the leadership role on that project.

“We’re there to help,” he said.

Planning for the Market Fair starts early. 

“It’s a 12-month commitment,” he said. “We work really hard 51 weeks to make this one week good.”

Holmgren laughingly said he wouldn’t have being doing the hard work this long if it wasn’t a good experience.

One of his favorite parts of the Market Fair is getting to meet people with similar interests. After he’s finished with his volunteer duties, he can be found running his store, selling American Windsor chairs, other wooden pieces, and some metal pieces. He even makes the hardware for his pieces.

“I do some off the wall stuff that others don’t do,” he said. 

Holmgren takes everyday items that people can use puts his own twist on it, going from stump to final product. Currently, he is working on a standup butcher block.

The journey to becoming the joiner he is today began at an early age. Holmgren’s father was an amateur woodworker and instilled the love in his son. Out of high school, Holmgren worked at a kitchen cabinet company and as a carpenter. Later, he took a class on making Windsor chairs and found his calling.

All pieces sold at the Market Fair must have proper documentation to prove their accuracy to the period just before or just after the American Revolutionary War.

“I started doing research and one thing led to another,” Holmgren said. “I’m a joiner. From what I can tell, I’m running parallel to joiners from the 18th century.”

It might seem like all work and no play for Holmgren at the Market Fair, but that’s OK with him. After doing events as far as Alabama for Fort Jackson’s Frontier Days, he knows very well the work and the fun of the events.

Though, sometimes the event isn’t the most fun. Fort Jackson’s Frontier Days had a memorable highlight. “The food is to die for,” he said with a laugh.

Holmgren has never experienced the Market Fair as a visitor. For him to do that, he would need someone to do what he does at his store. Fortunately, when his wife takes over the store he gets the chance to sneak away for a few hours to make visits.

“I’d very much like to (be a visitor),” he said, “It’s on the bucket list, but I’m in no hurry.”

Holmgren said he’s looking forward to getting to see an entertainment act at this year’s fair that he hasn’t seen in a while. 

Common Stock will be wandering the event, singing songs, telling stories, and showcasing artifacts from the era. Holmgren called them tongue and cheek, but historically accurate as are all the entertainers. The historical accuracy of the Market Fair is something he really enjoys, calling the event a good way to learn just by walking around and talking to people.

“If visitors are willing to ask questions, I’m willing to answer,” he said.



If you go ...       

WHAT: 18th Century Market Fair

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28

WHERE: Fort Frederick, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool

COST: $5 for adults; $2 for those 6 to 12 years old; free for 5 years old and younger

CONTACT: info@friendsoffortfredick.info or 301-842-2155



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