The Fair at New Boston

This weekend, my husband and I went to visit The Fair at New Boston, while Jane visited her grandparents.  The Fair isn't actually in Boston, it's in Springfield, OH...just north of Cincinnati.  The setting of the Fair is between 1790 and 1810.  Being that we both now own period appropriate attire for this era, we dressed the part.  However, we did not register, and therefore, we weren't EXACTLY participants, or reenactors.  We did our best though to follow the rules posted for participants, and with a couple of exceptions, I think we did pretty well.  I didn't actually get any pictures of us in our outfits, but since I haven't made anything new, it doesn't really matter....we donned the same things we wore at the Jane Austen Festival. 

The Fair was very crowded, and quite large, in my opinion.  I'm sure there are larger sort of events than this out there, but as you can see from the picture, it was a crowd drawer.  It's the largest event that I've been too, anyway.  I was consumed by the energy of the place, it was a true market in every aspect.  The air was crisp and fall like, with billowing clouds rolling fast by over-head.  There were wisps of smoke swirling about the air, carrying the scents of camp fires, cooking meats, soups and stews and baking bread.  Every once in a while, the earthy note of horses, and hay would waft by, followed by the sent of crushed herbs, like lavender and thyme.  It was such a fresh, real smelling place.  Nothing like the sterile, plastic smell of modern day malls or stores.

It was not a quiet place, but the sounds of this historic event were more bearable than the constant droning of modern life.  There was a baseness of quiet, filled in with pockets of sound overlapping and intermingling.  Fiddlers, drummers, and flute players on every corner tried their best to out do each other......Horses whinnied...Pots clanged.....

....Actors, heralds, and acrobats called out....Bakers, cooks, and merchants called out in advertisement of their goods.....

....and wealthy ladies and gents complained of the hardships they "must" endure.

I was fascinated by the shear number of craftsmen and artisans.  There were tin-smiths, black-smiths, leather workers, jewelry makers, fur traders, carpenters, shoe-makers, drapers, weavers, milliners, etc.  I fell in love with this chair maker and two of his chairs...the black one in the forefront, and the green one behind it.  Of course, I didn't have the means at the time to purchase one of these chairs.  Maybe next year....

What I DID purchase was a couple bars of soap from THIS soap maker.  I picked out two....I know, not a huge investment...one was "frankincense and myrrh," the other was "sweet red clover."  I think I might start carrying around a bar of this soap just to smell any time I get too stressed out!  Just kidding.... They really do relax you the moment you smell them.

(Sorry this picture is a bit random...I just liked this old wagon so much, I had to sneak it in here.)

We searched high and low to find my husband a "topper" or top hat, as that is the only part of his outfit that we are missing (one of the two faux pas we committed while there was my husband walking around without a hat!....Scandal!...I know!)  But, other than a recommendation for a good on-line source, we came out empty handed. All of the gentleman's hats we found at the fair, just didn't seem authentic enough for us.  So, the search will continue.

The only other thing that we purchased was food.  There were many delicious food vendors at the fair.  Lines were long, but worth the wait.  We had sausage on a stick, raspberries and cream, peaches and pound cake with fresh whipped cream, and sarsaparilla (a.k.a. - root beer.)  (This was the other area in which we erred...we didn't have our own period correct cups, plates or utensils, and so had to eat from the Styrofoam and plastic that the vendors were serving food in to the masses.  We got not a few dirty looks from some of the reenactors for doing this.  It states very clearly in the Fair's rules that those dressed in period attire must do EVERYTHING, including eating, in the manner that would befit a late 18th century lady or gentlemen. Alas, we failed miserably in that area.  We eyed several vendors selling cups, bowls, utensils, etc. and decided, because of high prices at the Fair, that we would order over the web anything that we might need for future events.)

On the fringes of the market were several different camps set up in clearings in the woods.  It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy market and wonder off into these little settlements.

One of these settlements was a Native American village...

...there was a military encampment....

...and, of course, several civilian settlements.

I enjoyed myself very much at the festival. We were reintroduced to a couple named Rebecca and Michael whom we had met in July at the Jane Austen Festival.  They've been reenacting for 4 years now, and were still new enough to the art that they remembered what it was like to be the ones just starting out.  They have been extremely nice and helpful to us, encouraging us to continue and giving us tips and wisdom on how it is done.  They recommended that we register next year, even if we don't have all of the equipment, and choose some sort of task or job (even if it is "mingling" as Rebecca called it.)  By doing this, they said we would get to know many of the other reenactors, and learn by watching and trial and error how to be authentic. 

  But, even though this couple was so kind to us, and I did enjoy the festival, many times I felt a bit like an impostor.  I was weary at the end of peering over trashcans and around tents to see the inner workings of the camps.  I felt a bit like the kid that gets left out of the party invitations.  I really do wish that we could have a little camp of our own, that we were a part of it for real.  I long to join in on the conversations around the campfire, of joining in on the dances that they hold "after hours," and sleeping on bed rolls in the cool of night listening to the sounds of settling camps and crickets in the woods.

I know that I must be patient....that it takes a while to accumulate all of the equipment and multiple outfits, etc to be a true reenactor....maybe next year, we will be able to take Rebecca and Michael's advice and register....maybe that will take us one step closer to being able to some day soon say that a camp like the one above is ours...and maybe then when someone comes up to us and asks us if we are reenactors, we will be able to say "yes."

Comments

Nabila Grace said…
Oh how exciting! :o) It sounds like so much fun! I have missed you! :o)
Sarah Jane said…
It looks like such a lovely event! I hope you are able to get a tent and things of your own to soon join full fledged in the reenacting community! I don't do this period, but for 1860's, you need not have much at all - a blanket to sleep on and one to cover you, a plate, utensils, cup (cup can double as a bowl) and clothing.
Jenni said…
Sarah Jane - That's such an encouragement, knowing that we don't need much to start out. I look around at all of the camps and see tables, chairs, crates and boxes, an assortment of bowls, cooking pots and pans, iron spits and fire utensils, lanters and candle holders, etc., etc... It all seems so overwhelmingly complicated, and seems as if it would take years to gather it all together. You've certainly simplified the list.
I've met people who reenact for 1860's and they sometimes use late 18th century wares for the 1860's too.
I was thinking of purchasing our plates, utensils and cups from Jas. Townsend. Do you have a recommendation of a company that sells these things at a reasonable cost? We could use either tin, ceramic, or wooden.
Love your blog. I found it when searching for Colonial Market Fairs and pleasantly enjoying it. You have posted so many great references and linkls.

I have participated in one recently and preparing for my second. I am a natural soap maker and artist. So I produce the lye & lard soaps, laundry soap as well as perfumed soaps (scented with present day essential oils). In addition I demonstrate creating floor cloths as well as present their historical importance. We both dressed in 18th century costumes which were borrowed and used by historical interpreters here in Dover DE where the constitution was first ratified. What I loved most of all about the Market Fair was the interest that visitors had in the history behind the product and also how the product is made. It is important to promote the traditional crafts and bring their history to light. Our culture is evolving so fast. We have to make time for the past.

So I am gathering patterns for clothing and materials used during our set up to demonstrate and sell our wares. I sell my wares through 2 of my websites: CoastalCottageSoaps.com and LibertosArt.com.

Incidently, in your Boston Market Fair story I see a photo of "The French Lace Maker." He was a big draw and great character during Dover's First State Heritage Park's Market Fair in Nov 2010 and is committed to participate in the 2011 event.

I also love Jane and will be following your muses.

Best to you and Jane,
Maria

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