7 Living History Events in Western Mass this Fall

Living History Events Bring Multi-Faceted Education Experience for All Ages

Combining the magic of theater and the mystique of history, living history events provide families with the opportunity to experience the past (and its people) as they were – in character and in context. By teaching history with a theatrical – yet incredibly realistic and accurate – approach, the age range to which a topic appeals becomes wider, allowing younger children to learn about the aesthetic aspects of certain historical eras, while their older counterparts explore the culture, politics, and relevance of the same time periods

Season of Thanks: Society of the 17th Century, Hall Tavern Visitor Center, Historic Deerfield, MA.

Early fall in western Massachusetts brings with it this year a wealth of immersive living history events, affording families a multitude of opportunities to learn experientially about a variety of historic eras, events, people, and practices. By attending one (or many!) of the upcoming living history events, families can explore new ideas and deepen their preexisting understanding of the roots of modern American society. The events are especially powerful for children in that they not only share significant information, but convey many of the more subtle details about a time period, event, or person of interest. Things that might be difficult to uncover by reading about history are made obviously evident through living history as they become quite apparent during a reenactors performance. Details like dress, speech, and physical surroundings suddenly seem much more important than they might in a history-themed text, allowing children to notice and learn from them.

Civil War Reenactment: The annual Battle of the Pines at Look Park places visitors in 1864 during the height of the Civil War. Held from Friday, October 3rd through Sunday, October 5th, the event brings a full encampment set-up to the park’s grounds, and will fill its three-day run with reenactments, demonstrations, parades, and even a firing competition! Families will be able to learn about everything from Civil War uniforms to battlefield medicine in an exciting and historically accurate environment. The first day of the event is specifically for school groups – classrooms and homeschool groups are invited to visit for special group-oriented demonstrations. 300 North Main Street. Florence, MA. ($)

19th Century New England Harvest: The Belchertown Historical Association’s annual Living History Day brings fall celebrations and archaeological explorations to town on Saturday, October 4th from 10am-3pm. Bringing the Stone House to Life celebrates the town’s history, and showcases many of the activities common during the fall harvest in 19th century New England. Families can explore the historic Stone House from 10am-3pm, and demonstrations and presentations will take place about topics like herb gardening, food preservation, soap making, outdoor cooking, and more. 20 Maple Street. 413-323-6573. Belchertown, MA.

A Conversation with Washington Irving: Don’t miss what might be your only opportunity to have a chat with Washington Irving, author of the iconic tales of Rip van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow on Saturday, October 4th at 6:30pm.  Hosted by the Rowe Historical Society, the event showcases the talents of reenactor John Dennis Anderson, who will share biographical information about Irving – including his lesser known career as a diplomat in Europe and his tours of the American west. 413-339-4238. 282 Zoar Road. Rowe, MA. (FREE)

A Historic Apple Harvest: Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England’s apple-growing tradition at Apple Days, held on Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th. The 19th-century village will be alive with apple activity, drawing families in to learn about the many fall harvest tasks that took place in early New England – many of which we still do today! In addition to tours of Sturbridge Village’s orchard (filled with heirloom varieties) will be apple picking, apple tasting, apple cooking, and apple preserving, as well as cider-making on an ox-powered mill. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. ($, Museum day passes available from local libraries)

Experiencing Immigration: Meet Gertrude Failing Groff, a German immigrant who settled in Springfield in the early 20th century. Part of the Wistariahurst Museum’s historical lecture series, the event explores the experiences of immigrants – particularly those whose gateway to the country was Ellis Island – during the early portion of the 1900’s. Portrayed by Elizabeth Wood, Groff’s story is a fascinating one – not only did she find herself in a new and unfamiliar place, but she made the cross-continental journey alone, finding her own way to a new community and a new life. Held on Monday, October 6th at 6pm. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot Street. Holyoke, MA. ($)

Historic Trades: The village of Historic Deerfield is alive this fall, its kitchens, workshops, and outdoor spaces filled with historic trades, crafts, and skills of all kinds. A visit to the 350-year-old village can include everything from open hearth cooking to dressmaking, tinsmithing to old New England medicine. Demonstrations of historic trades change each weekend, making for the potential for many a visit to the iconic New England village. Additionally, families can take part in special hands-on and experiential learning activities, including scheduled guided tours and archaeological activities. 413-774-5581. 84B Old Main Street. Deerfield, MA. ($; Museum day passes available from local libraries)

Colonial Homesteading: On Sunday, October 12th from 2-5pm, visit the Buckland Historical Society‘s Wilder Homestead for the annual Colonial Day, an event that brings the beautiful 1775 saltbox home and its surrounding grounds to life with all of the hubbub of an early New England farm in fall. Nestled cozily against the hills of West County, the Wilder Homestead is surrounded by cornfields – a perfect landscape against which to learn about crafts like basket weaving, folk painting, morris dancing, and quilting, as well as more survival-oriented activities like training oxen, pressing cider, and cooking over an open hearth. 129 Route 112. Buckland, MA. (<$)

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