great trail festival malvern

52.) Great Trail Festival – Malvern – August 29, 2010

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Culture isn’t the only thing that festivals try to preserve.

As the leaves prematurely begin to change and the birds gather in larger flocks on telephone poles and in my lawn, historical festivals start springing up, acting as living community time capsules that are reopened for a weekend or two. Last year, in September and October, I attended Butler’s Prairie Peddler Festival and the Colonial Williamsburg Festival in Wooster.

This year, my first historical festival was Malvern’s 2-weekend long Great Trail Festival.

The Great Trail was an important Native American footpath, connecting the Mid-Atlantic to the Great Lakes Region. Not only did it help the development of Ohio, passing the present day cities of Canton, Wooster, Ashland, Sandusky and Toledo, but it played a great role during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812…

…a time when buffalo possibly even lived in Ohio.

The Great Trail Farm first purchased buffalo in 1983 to help set the mood for the Great Trail Festival. But that’s not all they did…

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…they created a Great Trail all their own.

Set in the wooded area of the festival grounds, stores were set up along a few connecting paths, selling everything one may find in the 1800’s…

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…skins……………………………………………….antlers…

…fur hats……………………………………hoof coat racks…

…dice……………………………………………………….arrows…

…and even skulls.

They also had some modern things for sale…

…like Autumn lawn decor and fancy handbags…

…but most items came from period stores…

…or skilled craftsmen.

These craftsmen were masters of…

…candle making…

…wood……………………..metal…

…and even guns.

And they were happy to answer your questions.

Food booths also kept the theme of the festival…

…with old-fashioned facades…

…stand names reflective of the time…

…products, like beans, buffalo meat, and corn bread…

…and old spirits like…

…Verdi Raspberry Spumante?

Well, I guess even that existed back then…
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Entertainment included cloggers, historical reenactments…

…and plenty of great music.

There was even some cannon fire.

This brings us to one of the most important highlights of the festival…

The people firing the cannons, the people in the food stands, in even some shop owners…they were all dressed in period clothing. Since I had seen the same sort of thing at the German-American Festival two days prior, I thought they were only volunteers.

Then I saw this man and realized there was more going on.

Beyond Deere Lake, where they fired the cannons, I walked down a small path…

…where people in more 19th century dress went about their lives.

These weren’t additional vendors, which I had originally thought…

…or actors working for the festival.

They were a community of Living History Reenactors.

(So maybe they actually were actors in a sense.)

I learned this by asking a man I found lounging in front of his tent. He told me that, for a small fee, anyone could register to camp at the festival, as long as you wore clothing of the 1800’s and used products (pans, tools, etc.) from that period.

For those starting out, products laid out on blankets in front of tents could be purchased.

The man continued to tell me how I could find out more about the reenacting community, directing me to The Smoke & Fire Newspaper – in case you’re interested yourself. From there, you can find other events to reenact the 19th century or other historical periods (Medieval, Scottish, American Revolution, etc.).

Apart from the friendliness of these people (the wife of the man I talked to gave me a spoonful of her homemade apple pie), their mere presence at the festival really made it feel authentic. They went about their lives…

…socializing…

…cooking…

…and even working.

(Click on photo to see a better view of the fire in the wagon.)

And since each group got a trinket for each event they attended…

…you could tell some people were really into it.

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