Historical significance not lost at Buckley Homestead

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Entertainment

Published on August 31, 2011 with No Comments

It has become a family tradition celebrating the history of the area combined with fun, education but — most of all — an example of how the community comes together.

The Buckley Homestead Fall Festival is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Megan Faulkner is the organizer for the Lake County Parks Department. As a daughter of the county, she is a Hobart native, it is part of her personal heritage.

But she is quick to tell everyone she is blessed to have the group effort that makes the party happen.

“There is a multitude of people,” she said. “If I spent my whole weekend just saying thank-yous, I still would not get to everyone.”

For example, Tri Kappa of Lowell will take charge of the admission gate. And the Scouts of Wheatfield Troop 162 have made the event part of their annual calendar even as they do all the indispensable things that keep the event on task.

For those anticipating their first Festival, the homestead is set up with period crafters, self-demonstration booths, characters in time-appropriate dress and more participants each year.

“It is such a positive experience,” said Faulkner.

“Definitely, an old-fashioned family time.”

“We make all the booths of wood, with cornstalks for decorations.”

“For all the vendors, the arts and crafts are done according to 1800s standards. We keep the modern things out of sight; the electrical cords, cooling fans.

“Overall, we keep the look very old-fashioned.”

To Faulkner and the other producers, the Festival’s enduring attraction is an important legacy to protect as the Homestead is meant to portray Indiana life in the 1850s onward.

“This Festival has been going for a long, long time,” she observed.

“And it doesn’t seem to matter if is hot or cold; families want to come and they do come.”

She gets comments from the attendees that let her know what she does is important.

“They find me at the event. I’ve been told this is ‘the best family day we’ve ever had,’ and they thank us so much because they are just happy to have been with us,” she said.

Participants can visit the Schoolhouse and get duded up in period costumes for pictures.

There are so many events, from hayrides to making soap to a nail-pounding contest to a frying pan toss competition, a liars’ convention … and then there are the Coal County Cowboys.

They have made this event a special part of their yearly activities, with authentic demonstrations.

And, like the craftspeople, they are ready to share their knowledge.

“You intermingle with everyone,” Faulkner said. “The people doing the crafts will explain how they got interested and show you how to do it.

“The Cowboys will stay in character and explain life on the Indiana prairies. From the moment they wake up in their camp, they are cowboys of the 1850s. They promote gun safety, too. Everything is entertainment and education.”

For instance, Dr. Quackenbush, an old-time peddler of frontier medicines and his whole family come back annually with their show.

The root cellar is staffed by modern day Master Gardeners who will answer any questions about growing things hereabouts.

“We want people to enjoy themselves,” Faulkner said. “This is an inexpensive way for a family to spend a day or a weekend. It is affordable.”

Most importantly, the vendors who come once come back again and again for this renewal of Hoosier hospitality.

“We gain people (vendors) and we’ll have new people again this year,” Faulkner observed. “And they will have really wonderful products to display and sell.

“But we also will have the vendors who have been coming for years to see old friends and customers.”

In a way, that is another throwback to a time when families would journey into the “big city” for fellowship and adventure and a weekend getaway from the isolated farms on which they lived.

There is an invitation-only chili cook off, to be judged by visitors. The cowboys will have their own chili cook off and so will the Boy Scouts. There will also be pie-eating contests.

The Scouts will use the event to camp out as well, working on outdoor merit badges. They also will stage a Pony Express tryout competition.

“I cannot say enough about the Scouts,” Faulkner said. “They are everywhere, cleaning up the grounds and doing all those things that make this a success without really being noticed or even wanting to be noticed. If something needs to be done, they will do it.”

“They are an inspiration to the rest of us. And they say they are doing it because it is about having a good time.”

“They say camping out from Friday night until Sunday is cool for them.”

Admission is $4 per person; children 7 and younger are free

Buckley Homestead, part of the Lake County Parks system, is located at at 3606 Belshaw Road, Lowell. It is 4.5 miles west of Interstate 65 just south of Indiana 2. Valparaiso visitors can follow Indiana 2.

Pets, usually allowed in the park, are not permitted at this special event. For more information, please call 219-769-PARK. Old Time and Traditional Craftsmen should call Faulkner, 219-947-7275 if interested in a booth.

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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