The last weekend Tom and I worked at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park were the Heritage Days. In the past, these days have celebrated the Appalachian way of life around the time of the Hensley Settlement – 1900 and later. This year, Ranger Layton was in charge of Heritage Days and he decided we would celebrate the pioneers who came through the Gap in the late 1700’s. For two beautiful days, we did living history outside and told the stories of those first pioneers through the Gap.
It is always more fun to do living history when there are a variety of people demonstrating different skills. On Saturday, I cooked: bean soup, yeast rolls, and honey cake. Volunteer Margaret came and helped me with the fire and the cooking chores. Having someone else help with the cooking makes my job so much easier. Someone else to help haul stuff out, tend the fire, and do the dishes afterward. It also helps that the Visitors Center has a kitchen that we can use as a staging area.
Tom did blacksmithing both days and Ranger Stormy helped him on Sunday. Tom appreciates the help because he can take a break from talking and sit down occasionally. Between the two of them, they made and gave away lots of hooks.
Ranger Brittony churned butter that we put on our yeast rolls. Churning butter is always a good demonstration because kids love to help with it. Ranger Miriam demonstrated caning chairs. She does a great job with the caning and people were very interested in learning about her materials. Volunteer Steve brought his shaving horse and worked on rough-carving wooden spoons. Volunteer Regan did children’s games, including the very popular buzzer button. Ranger Layton talked about the long rifle and tavern life on the frontier.
On Sunday several of us switched jobs. I brought my loom and spinning wheel out and talked about weaving and spinning. Volunteer Margaret did the buzzer buttons. Ranger Miriam demonstrated candle making. She let kids and adults dip their own candles. There were also two staff from Wilderness Road State Park who demonstrated making blowguns and blowgun darts and basket weaving. They also made corn husk dolls. Ranger Layton left his long rifle inside and spent the day filling in for lunches and breaks. Ranger Olivia and Volunteer Pat handled the information desk inside.
Lots of people came to Heritage Days, including many of the regulars we had gotten to know. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is well supported by the local community. People in the area follow the park on Facebook and check the park calendar regularly. Sometimes these “in-the-know” locals told us about upcoming events before we knew of them.
Many people came both days to the event. They knew the demonstrators would be different on Sunday, so they came back again. We had one family that found out about the event on Friday when they visited the park, and then came back to event on Saturday and Sunday and stayed several hours each day. It is so much fun to demonstrate when people are really in to learning the details of what we are doing.
Heritage Days was a good way to finish our time at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Working with the rangers and talking to people who were interested in what we do is the reason we love volunteering in the national parks.