Railsplitter Festival educational, informative fun
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[September 12, 2008]
In a way, this weekend's new,
improved Railsplitter Festival is a return to the early ones, in the
1970s, with plenty of hands-on experiences.
There will be something for everyone to learn and see and get a real
sense of how it was during the early days in central Illinois.
There will be lessons on sewing and embroidering as well as weaving,
none of which will involve electricity.
You can learn how to make vinegar and apple butter as well as
homemade soap. Vegetable drying and how to compost also will be
There will be a smokehouse and washhouse to show how early
settlers prepared their meats and how the women toiled to get the
stains out of the hunters' clothing.
This year's Railsplitting Festival is a fabulous blend of living
and appreciating the present day (the great food concessionaires
will remind us of that), but also learning to understand our roots,
our heritage and how our ancestors took only what they needed from
the land, worked together and helped each other in times of need.
The entire festival is a snapshot of a bygone era when people
trusted in God, the land and each other to carve out a hole in the
great walnut and oak forests and prairie grasses that covered this
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This year there will be at least seven out-of-area craftsmen who
will ply their trades, from carving to working crafts to
blacksmithing. The pioneer village and primitive lodges will help
visitors understand how an early home would have been built and what
it would have been like to live some 150 years ago in the middle of
the Prairie State.
Inside the main building there will be music, but strummers and
pickers and players will also dot the fairgrounds as music will be
heard at every corner of the grounds.
For the little ones, there will be an assortment of animals that
they will be able to get up close to. There will also be many games
and activities to become involved in, from games we have heard of,
like checkers and chess, to things that we might need a little
instruction on, such as stick toss, leaf rubbing, spinning tops, and
hoops and sticks.
Of course, all of this is in addition to the railsplitting
festivities and contests, which include a tomahawk throw and several
railsplitting contests, culminating in a national championship
railsplitting match at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday.
If you enjoy history or music or great family fun, or you just
want to gain a new respect for our ancestors and an appreciation of
how hard early settlers had to work to carve out a life, then this
year's Railsplitter Festival is a must.
[LDN staff; contributions from
Nancy Vannoy, Judy Ballinger and Geoff Ladd]