This year, as the nation marks the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, many celebrations are planned. In Virginia the first event to mark the occasion is George Mason Day next Sunday at Mason's northern Virginia plantation home, FTC Gunston Hall in Lorton, Va.
Mason was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as the model for the Bill of Rights. Interpreters in the role of Mason, his family, servants, friends and neighbors will bring to life a day at the plantation in the year 1791. You'll see Mason and his neighbors discussing the Bill of Rights and an 18th century legal debate on its specific issues by members of the Fairfax Bar Association. Some of its members will also offer free legal advice at an "Ask a Laywer" booth.
The activities are included in the regular plantation admission of $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $1 for children in grades 1 to 12, free for those under 6. Gunston Hall is 22 miles south of Washington. Watch for signs from U.S. 1 or Interstate 95 at (Lorton) Exit 55. For information, call (703) 550-9220.
Another large event is planned next Sunday to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of President James Buchanan at his mansion, Wheatland, in Lancaster, Pa.
The public is invited to a grand 19th century reception, where famous people of Buchanan's era will be portrayed by actors and actresses. Buchanan, of course, will be there, as will his niece, Harriet Lane, who acted as first lady during his White House years. Other famous friends include Queen Victoria, her son the Prince of Wales, composer Stephen Foster and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. During a re-enactment a cannon will be fired to welcome Buchanan home from England, where he had served as the American minister to the Court of St. James's.
Pork and sauerkraut, one of the president's favorite meals, will be served ($8 per person). Bagpipers will perform, costumed guides will offer tours of the mansion and there will be birthday cake, carriage rides and jugglers.
The event will be held on the lawn under tent from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Outside activities are free, but there is a charge for house tours and food. Wheatland is at 1120 Marietta Ave. in Lancaster. For information, call (717) 392-8721 or (800) 735-2629.
As the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster opens for a new season on Saturday, it will celebrate the 25th anniversary year of its opening as a museum.
Activities will be geared to the museum's past. Before the farmhouse was transformed into a museum it served as the county almshouse. Members of the museum board will share stories and information about those days, and there will be slides and a display of old photos. Costumed guides will conduct tours of the farmhouse, and in the living history center a meal will be cooked over the open hearth. There will be other demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts. On the grounds, the 19th Georgia Regiment, a Civil War re-enactment group, will set up an encampment.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will open the museum's new General Store. The Westminster Municipal Band and the Carroll County Choral Society will provide music during the day. Wagon rides will be offered for a small fee and food will be available.
Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call 876-2667.
The 18th annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is scheduled Saturday and next Sunday at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship. It is considered the largest event of its kind in the country.
Events include sheep shows, shearing demonstrations, seminars, sheep to shawl contests, working sheep dog demonstrations, a fashion show and spinning contests. In the food building you can sample lamb recipes and watch contestants prepare dishes for the lamb cook-off. You can shop at over 200 craft and supply booths and enjoy entertainment by Maggie Sansone playing the hammered dulcimer or exhibitions of Scottish country dancing and square dancing.
Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call 750-8582 or 823-4037.
May Day will be celebrated at the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a group of artisans on hand to demonstrate and sell their work.
Ladies will be preparing mustard, chutney and pepper jelly in the kitchen and a herb authority will be on hand with fresh and dried herbs and herb decoratives. There will be basket-making demonstrations and handmade toys and folk art for sale. A trompe l'oeil artist will have a number of pieces for sale. In the garden, spring and summer flowering bulbs will be on sale along with antique gardening accessories.
Activities are free, but there is a charge to tour the house of $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for students. The Hammond-Harwood House is at 19 Maryland Ave. For information, call 269-1714.