Making history come to life

Encampment: A field in Harford County becomes the home of Colonial re-enactors.

April 18, 2004|By Amanda Ponko | Amanda Ponko,SUN STAFF

The pungent scent of wood-burning fires hung in the air yesterday as women in bonnets and shawls skillfully wove baskets. The men, dressed in knickers and moccasins, pounded iron into shape and smoked pipes, rifles slung over their shoulders.

More than 100 history fans filled the field behind the Hays House Museum in Bel Air this weekend for its fifth annual Encampment of Living History, a Colonial-era time warp to raise funds for the museum and to educate visitors.

The three-day event began Friday morning and will continue today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors receive a tour of the Hays House, the oldest building in Bel Air, built in 1788, and can walk through the sprawling encampment to experience Colonial life.

Re-enactors from across the Mid-Atlantic region are sleeping in tents and teepees, each not much larger than a double bed. During the day, participants open their tents, each displaying a craft or activity of the period including candle-making, fur-trading and storytelling.

Stephanie Borneman of Bel Air is the encampment's "booshway" - a Colonial term that means manager.

Borneman, who has been a Colonial re-enactor for more than a decade, said she enjoys educating the public about the nation's history. She scheduled the event to include Friday so students would be able to take a field trip to the site. About 500 students from seven schools in the county visited the Hays House on Friday.

"We get the biggest kick out of seeing the kids' faces when they come here," Borneman said. "Everyone here is a professional in their own persona. We have a lot of fun."

Borneman's counterpart is Robin Sebold, recording secretary for the Historical Society of Harford County, who is responsible for activities in the Hays House during the weekend.

Sebold said turnout this year has been excellent, ensuring the Hays House will receive thousands of dollars, to be used for new curtains, lights, antique furnishings and general upkeep.

"We're going to keep doing this as long as people will come," Sebold said. "Something like this makes history come alive. It's something tangible to hold onto. It makes them appreciate the history of this country."

First-time visitors to the Hays House, Bill and Denise Trout of Hereford in Baltimore County said they have always sought out educational activities because they home-schooled their five children and now have grandchildren.

"We plan on coming back," Bill Trout said.

Veronica Peden of Bel Air, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said she has been a docent at the Hays House for 12 years. She volunteers "because of my love of history, my love of Bel Air and my love of the Hays House," she said. "It's a treasure."

The Encampment of Living History continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 324 Kenmore Ave. in Bel Air. Admission fees are $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for children younger than age 4. Food and beverages will be available.

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