Sunday, August 19, 2007

Discovery Days

On Saturday, we spent a few hours at the Discovery Days festival. Here’s the official description of the event from the local newspaper: “This festival will showcase the replica of the John Smith shallop as part of the official 400th-anniversary events of the commonwealth of Virginia. Features traditional craftsmen, living history reenactments, music, food and more.” The shallop is the tiny ship Smith captained to explore the Rappahannock River, and it was anchored at the City Dock, where most of the day's events were centered. So here’s how I want you to think about this: Imagine every community festival you’ve ever been to. Imagine rows of food vendors selling things like kettle corn and Italian ices and barbecue. Imagine more booths with vendors selling the usual T-shirts, jewelry, and crafts. Imagine demonstrations and reenactments, and a tent with a stage with performers.

Now give the whole thing a living history spin: the demonstrations were about Colonial woodworking and brick-making and silversmithing. There were Native American villagers, colonial-era sailors, and Revolutionary War reenactors.

The performers included a folk-singing troubadour, an a capella group singing spirituals and slave songs, and a theater group that put on a play about coming to Jamestown. Plus plenty of exhibits with historical information, and yes, kettle corn and Italian ices and barbecue (because I guess some things are timeless).

Luckily the weather was perfect for the event, and the crowd down at the City Dock was pretty big. The event was sponsored in part by the Fredericksburg Area Museum, located a few blocks away from the dock. Behind the museum is a large “Market Square,” perfect as a venue for performers, and at which there were acts scheduled throughout the day. I’m not sure why the City Dock got such a crowd, and Market Square attracted only a handful of people, but I couldn’t resist this photo of a pretty lonely troubadour at midday:

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