Children overlooking the Fair at New Boston. CONTRIBUTED/LIZ CULBERTSON

Pam Cottrel: ‘Stepping back in time at Fair at New Boston is mind boggling’

As most of you know, I am a Time Traveler.

If you are a fan of Outlander, you will understand how I feel about being a part of the Fair at New Boston. Stepping back in time from the modern world into the Ohio frontier is indeed mind boggling.

I spend the weeks before the Fair immersed in the technology of the modern age. Using computers, printers, and the Internet as part of a committee to prepare publications, and advertise the Fair. I’m one of those who dodge modern vehicles to put up the signs you see along the roads.

Then every year on Saturday of Labor Day weekend I get my reward. I don my 1799 attire and walk to the top of the hill by the Hertzler Barn and look down over the town of New Boston as it might have been more than 200 years ago. It always takes my breath away.

After all the hard work getting the Fair set up, it is rewarding to see the final result, and to enjoy the New Boston experience.

During the months of preparations for the Fair at New Boston I’m reminded of a duck floating on a peaceful stream with its webbed feet paddling, paddling, paddling.

Since much of that “paddling” goes into making our Fair look so beautiful and calm. I thought I might write some “behind the scenes” stories in this column.

It takes a year to prepare the Fair at New Boston. As we conclude one fair, we begin to make arrangements for the next. For example the mugs for the 2020 Fair have already been ordered.

More than 1,000 mugs are delivered during the week before the fair and a dozen or so hearty souls show up for the mug unloading, washing, then delivery to the taverns. This assembly line mug washing is actually quite entertaining and we usually end up drenched and laughing.

The props for the fair, canvas, poles, tables and benches all fit neatly into our headquarters, the Gathering House. When items are taken out of storage they often require painting or repairs. There is a big tent for that and a team of painters, headed by our artists who make signs and banners.

Taking items out to the field require transportation on trailers and lots of strong arms and backs. It is the same when we put the Fair back into storage. This is all done by good hearted volunteers who are fed well by our volunteer cooks every weekend in August.

When our visitors arrive, they are directed to parking by volunteers. Community minded volunteers take their tickets and pass out the programs. The Front Gate is the favorite volunteering spot for those who don’t want to wear what they refer to as the “funny clothing.” After the front gate we are all in historical attire.

Don’t call our clothing costumes. Costumes are for Halloween.

We spend months creating the authentic clothing we wear. First the proper cloth must be selected. There are actually stores that specialize in recreating historical cloth. They examine clothing in museums and then order new fabric to be made with the weave, print or design of the 18th century. And there are patterns too, accurate historically based patterns.

The making of historically accurate patterns is very complicated. With a museum’s permission the pattern maker measures the inside of the fragile antique clothing. By examining the inside seams, one can determine the actual steps of clothing construction. Clothing from back then was sewn by hand and the interior of a properly made gown looked as neat as the outside. Many of the new copies are that neat also.

Sewing machines make the task easier today. (Although some of us still insist on hand sewing to be accurate.) Upstairs in the Gathering House we hold sewing sessions all winter long. We also have a lending closet for new volunteers. Long time volunteers are expected to either make or purchase their own authentic clothing.

And speaking of authenticity, we have a jury, a group of experts who look over every outfit to judge its accuracy to the 1790 - 1810 time period.

At the Fair you will see shops that sell fabric and patterns of the time period. Go in and look around. There are some beautiful materials that can be used in modern clothing. The fabric is all natural, and made of linen, silk, cotton, and wool.

There are other shops that carry accurate shoes, socks, jewelry, hats, dishes and other accoutrements. These are fun for discovering unique gifts.

Did you know that our Native American Village of Kispoko is the most accurate collection of authentic Woodland Indian wigwams and long house of that time period in the world? It truly is and it is a feather in the cap of the Clark County Park District.

Museums and venues from all over come to look at the construction. Kispoko is copied and improved as experts visit and contribute their ideas.

The village is an important part of the park district’s Haunting event in October, and then it is winterized.

Kispoko is a magical place when the drums arrive and the chanting begins. It is a loving tribute to the Shawnee villages of Kispoko and Peckuwe what once stood in this park more than 225 years ago.

During the Fair I portray a visitor to the Fair. I spend the days chasing young grandbabies in muslin shifts, or sipping tea at Cheapside Theater. And always there is visiting with good friends, historical and modern.

Please take time to talk with those of us in period attire. We’ll tell you what it was like to live in 1799.

We try not to use modern words in our conversations. I struggle every year to remove the 20th century word “okay” from my conversations. I try, okay?

Listen to the conversations at the taverns and Coffee House. John Adams is our President and we are proud residents of the Northwest Territory. We are pleased that a treaty has been signed with the “Indians” and we have peace. We wish you “Good Day” and “Good Morrow.”

Three generations of my family is involved in I think every corner of the Fair. Some families have four generation, almost five generations, participating. When someone in the living history world is expecting, they are gifted or loaned, tiny white baby shifts for the first year. The Fair at New Boston is a family event for participants and for visitors.

So what are my insider suggestions for visitors? Comfortable shoes and sunscreen are a must. You can try to see it all in one day, but two days are better. Relax in the shade at Kispoko village, Cheapside Theatre, or the Taverns and just watch and soak up the atmosphere. Join in the dance. Catch all the performers.

But the best kept secret is “Don’t leave early.”

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. the crowds thin out, and the pace is more relaxed. Shopping is great. Entertainment continues and you can soak in the atmosphere with the New Boston residents. It is also our favorite time of day.

And if you want to become a Time Traveler too, all you have to do is ask.

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