Last Saturday Fort Frederica National Monument had a very rainy Colonial Day. Colonial Day is our biggest event of the year and we usually have close to 1,000 visitors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The weather forecast had called for rain all day with up to an inch of accumulation. Although we were concerned about the weather, the park staff decided to go ahead with the event rain or shine.
As an allowance to the very rainy day scheduled, we changed the set-up so that everyone was in the living history area under tents. Usually we have people scattered all along Broad Street. This year we had a tent by the dug-out canoe, another one by the blacksmith shelter, another tent for the candle-maker by the fire, a fourth tent for the fiber group, and a final tent for the Highlanders. The cricket guy had his own awning across the moat so he had a big enough yard for cricket games. The only group that chose not to come was Camp Flintlock, which was supposed to have children’s activities.
The number of people demonstrating living history was smaller than usual. Because of scheduling conflicts, we didn’t have a tabby maker, doctor, dyer, Spanish soldiers, or soldiers from Fort Mose. Ranger Phil, who was in charge of the event, had also forgotten to secure overflow parking. So it might have been good a thing to have a very rainy day.
It rained hard during the night and a couple of the tents, set up on Friday, had come down. The park staff worked quickly and efficiently to get them set back up. During our set-up time, the rain slowed to a drizzle, which was fortunate. It allowed us to get stuff out to the tents without it getting soaked. We were also lucky that it was a warm day.
Despite the weather, we had a plenty of visitors in the morning. The numbers were down a little from previous years, but that left room under the tents for people to ask lots of questions. The canvas tents held up really well and stayed pretty dry considering they were only canvas. Because the visitors came steadily instead of in a rush, there wasn’t a parking problem. Denise Verba, freed from parking duty, spent the morning poking the canvas so that the water would flow over the sides instead of bringing down the tent. The visitors were very good-natured about the rain and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The fiber tent was a busy place. In the past I’ve been in the tent by myself. This year I had lots of helpers. Ranger Jamieson worked on the loom all morning. Intern Sierra demonstrated the spinning wheel. Ranger Deanna from Fort King George State Park demonstrated a drop spindle. That left me free to talk about textile processing in the 1700’s or to help children try handweaving.
After almost an inch of rain, the rain decided to stop about 12:30 and it became a lovely afternoon. More people stopped by and there were close to 200 by the time of the cannon firing at 2:15. Because so many of them came later, they didn’t want to leave or stop looking at the living history demonstrations at 3. By the end of the day we had 585 visitors. Not a huge number for Colonial Day, but pretty good considering how very rainy it was. We got a nice write-up in the Brunswick newspaper.
Unfortunately, Colonial Day was Ranger Jamieson’s last day at Fort Frederica. She is leaving for New Orleans this week to take a position with a private archaeology firm. It is more in line with her training so we are happy for her. But I, for one, will miss her energy and enthusiasm at Fort Frederica. She had been my weaving buddy and my friend. We had a cake and a little send-off for her at the end of the day.
Colonial Day is one of my favorite days at Fort Frederica National Monument. I love how many people come out to learn about how things were done in the 1730’s. We might have had plenty of rain this year, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.