Commentary: Fair at New Boston sets stage for look into history

Something magical is happening at George Rogers Clark Park this weekend.

The Fair at New Boston is returning on Sept. 1 and 2.

All month long the legendary “town” has been slowly, but steadily, materializing in a valley behind the Hertzler House and Barn. There is a calculated method to the construction and the members of the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association know it well after 36 years of presenting this nationally recognized event.

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New Boston has been compared to Brigadoon, but its appearing is not as sudden. It takes a year of planning and a month of construction to set the stage for the best party in Clark County.

The town is built of canvas, but it is also made of muscle, sweat, and laughter. Constructed entirely by volunteers, New Boston is as accurate to the time period as humanly possible. The activities, the food, the dances, the clothing, the entertainment, and the shops are well researched in the hopes of making time travel to 1798 seem almost possible. The recreated Shawnee village is indeed a work of art and something that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

Putting on the Fair at New Boston is not easy and some may wonder why we do this in this modern world of convenience and air conditioning.

As one of the New Boston residents allow me to explain. We love history. We believe that recreating a past time period in great detail will help the visitors better understand that era that shaped our world. In this crazy busy complicated world it is nice to step back into a simpler time and see how things were handled back then. Things were not perfect but people managed, and we can learn from them.

Back then, there was a joy in the simplicity and the creation of entertainment or a product what was usable, beautiful or worthy of coin. We modern folk have lost this in many ways.

When was the last time you danced in the street to real violins? I did last year at New Boston.

There is more laughter in a day at New Boston than a week in the modern world. Puppets, performers, and magicians delight young and old. Parents and children play old time games together by the fort.

Exploring the nearby Native American village is awe inspiring. I like to sit among the wigwams and just soak in the atmosphere.


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The cool drinks at the taverns are refreshing and the authentic vintage foods are mouthwatering. New Boston has food tents and booths instead of food trucks and it works really well.

And yes there are some things to learn. Did you know that in 1798 President John Adams asked retired president George Washington to come back to be Commander in Chief to rebuild the military because Washington knew the best way to do it? Can you imagine such a thing in today’s world?

In 1798 the Native Americans and the settlers actually got along. A cooperative spirit between the old enemies existed for a time. And for a brief time the British and the Americans actually worked together too. In fact the sailors of a British sailing ship will be visiting the Fair this year. 1798 was a time of great promise and possibilities.

It was also a time that had some problems. Although slavery existed in the south, it was not allowed in the Northwest Territory. That was why many of our ancestors chose to move here. I’m glad they did. In 1798 it would be more than 100 years until women could vote. I must admit that talking about those early elections helps me make the effort to never miss an election today.

On Friday there is an event for pre-registered schools and students only. We set up education stations in New Boston, and focus on the standards and benchmarks of fourth and fifth grade social studies classes. We work hard to give those attending an enthusiastic start to their year of studying Ohio and American history. And teachers have told us that it works.

Education is the purpose and goal of the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association. We love demonstrating how people lived, traded, built, and constructed things with their hands. We hope that the students enjoy the day as much as we do.

I’m writing this to invite you to come share the magic this Saturday or Sunday. If you’ve visited New Boston before I hope you return this weekend to see what is new. There is always something different to see since we are always changing and trying to improve.

If you’ve never time traveled to New Boston before, this weekend is your opportunity. Come dance in the streets with us.

And if you are lucky, you just might find out how to become a New Boston resident yourself next year.

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