As part of Black History month, Fort Frederica hosted an African American Heritage Festival on February 29. The day was cold and blustery but clear and we had almost 900 visitors.
Anytime we host a special event, it requires a lot of behind the scenes work by the volunteers. Denise and Bob Verba, especially, stayed busy putting up tents and moving things around. The African American Heritage Festival was all held in the area between the moat and the Visitors Center. Having it in this area allowed everyone to be close together but also left the rest of the park open to visitors who wanted to see Frederica.
Tom directed traffic all day and I worked in the Gullah Geechee National Heritage Trail booth. The most challenging part of the day was keeping things from blowing away. Our booth has a mural as a back wall and it kept acting like a sail when it caught the wind. We had all our information weighted down but every now and then someone would take a weight off and the whole stack would be gone in a minute. So we had to stay vigilant.
This year we had a lot more booths than in the past and people really enjoyed the displays. Cannon’s Point Preserve had an artifact display. Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation had a great rice display. Kinglsey Plantation paid us a return visit and brought up a display on cotton. A regiment of soldiers from Fort Mose came and did firing demonstrations. A sweet-grass basket weaver demonstrated weaving. Even the Georgia Department of Transportation Cultural Resources came with lots of goodies to give away. Their frisbees were dangerous weapons with the high winds!
Volunteers from Fort Frederica staffed the information booths and the bookstore inside. Shirley Hunter sold her gorgeous paintings. There were speakers inside every hour and the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters danced.
The highlight of the day was the dedication of the Abbott cemetery. Archaeological research found the graves last year and identified them from an old Abbott family map. We marked the graves in the traditional African American style and put a split rail fence around them. Several local clergy prayed and dedicated the cemetery. Family members talked about the people buried in the spots: Robert Abbott’s father and aunt are two of them.
After the event was over, all the volunteers stayed to help put everything away. We all worked so effectively that we had all the tents, chairs, tables, and traffic cones put away by 4:30.
The African American Heritage Day was a big success at Fort Frederica and we all enjoyed the day very much.