Volunteers make New Boston come alive once a year

Every year as Labor Day weekend approaches, the village of New Boston reappears at George Rogers Clark Historic Park.

The fair is always on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Some folks have compared New Boston to Brigadoon, the mythical village that magically appeared in a Scottish valley once every 100 years. You remember the musical, I’m sure.

The reality, however, is New Boston does not appear magically. It reappears because of a lot of hard work by a dedicated group of unpaid volunteers.

I know because I am one.

The Fair at New Boston does not appear overnight. It takes a year of planning and a full month to physically set up the event. Every weekend in August, dozens of volunteers show up with gloves ready to work. They are provided lunches on each weekend day. And the lunches are cooked by volunteers, I might add.

The first thing we do in August are repairs and painting. There always seems to be a lot of painting. Benches and tables for each area, like each tavern or coffee shop, are color coded. Once the painting is done, items are delivered by wagon or truck to their spots on the field.

Canvas rips need to be sewn. Ropes need replacement. The lots have to be measured and labeled. Street signs have to go up.

Meanwhile, the Native American village has been under constant repair. Since we cannot strip bark off of the trees to make an outer weather-resistant layer for the wigwams as the Shawnee did, our structures need sections replaced. Sometimes canvas is used in place of animal skins. It’s hard to mow in this area so there is a lot of hand trimming.

The invasive honeysuckle is always an issue. Left to flourish unimpeded, it would make the field smaller and smaller each year and eventually take over.

We used to have to climb ladders to put up the flags, banners, and tavern signs, but the availability of a bucket truck has made a big difference over the last few events. It seems like every couple of years another worker comes up with a labor-saving idea, which is greatly appreciated. Setting up the poles and white canvas of the larger tents can take up to 10 people working together and lots of muscle. We could use some circus elephants.

I want to repeat something I said at the beginning so readers can let it sink in. The Fair at New Boston is presented by unpaid volunteers. Volunteers.

Of course the shops, artisans, food vendors, and professional entertainers are business people who are hired or contracted to do something specific at the fair.

However, those who set up the fair, maintain the canvas and wood structures, manage registration, sew, jury, paint, feed the work crews, and set up white canvas of the Fairmasters Tent and Taverns are all volunteers. The soldiers drilling together are volunteers as are those who take part in the battle reenactment. The Liberty Dancers are volunteers who practice all year long. We even pay for our own period attire, uniforms and camps. The taverns, gift shop, and coffee house which are owned by the organization are totally manned by volunteers. No one is paid.

For the volunteers, the Fair at New Boston is a labor of love. We are family, all linked together by a love of local history and this amazing historical site known as George Rogers Clark Historical Park. History education is the goal of the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association and we want to help people learn more about their history through our events.

We work hard at the fair to get enough proceeds to support our history education mission all year long. A year later on the day before the next fair, we provide a free field trip for more than 1,200 elementary students. We want their year of Ohio history to start off strong.

The Fair at New Boston may take a month to set up, but it comes down very quickly. We all have a big breakfast on Monday morning and work until the Fair at New Boston is all stuffed back into our barn.

If you want to join us, stop by on Labor Day and lend us a hand putting the Fair to bed. You never know, you might get bitten by this volunteer bug and become part of the family.

You know when I think about it, perhaps New Boston does appear magically. Getting so many volunteers to work together for a common cause in this day and age is nothing short of a miracle.

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