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HAVE A HISTORICAL FOURTH

This weekend, area families have an opportunity to celebrate the Fourth of July at  two of the most significant sites in the life of the Father of our Country: Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington, and the Yorktown Victory Center, near the battlefield where American and French forces won the decisive battle of the American Revolution.

The staff at each site will be offering a host of activities designed to virtually transport visitors into the life and times of the birth of our nation.

Ferry Farm

The folks of the George Washington Foundation have dubbed the theme of this year’s celebration “Home Sweet Home”—in recognition of a new stage in the exploration of the family farm where our first president spent his formative years.

After years of painstaking investigation in search of the Washington home that caught fire in the winter of 1740, Ferry Farm’s team of intrepid archaeologists located and excavated the remains of the house. From evidence unearthed throughout seven seasons of excavation, the foundations and cellars were confirmed as belonging to the Washington family.

This year’s Liberty Day celebration will present a preview of a forthcoming project to re-create, on the basis of archaeological finds and historical records, the Washington landscape, including a house, gardens and outbuildings.

The discovery of the foundation of the Washington house and artifacts of the family’s possessions that were found in its cellars is the pinnacle of an ongoing archaeological project on the site, which has unearthed thousands of objects from as far back as 10,000 years.

Families visiting this weekend will have an opportunity to watch and speak with the archaeologists as they explore an actual “dig” and they can learn about the steps involved in retrieving artifacts and piecing together the clues they yield about the history of the site.

Another special feature of this year’s celebration will be dramatized scenarios that depict the French and Indian War, Rules of Love about courtship in the 18th century and life lessons from George Washington based on the “Rules of Civility” that guided his training in etiquette.

While visitors will see that courtship in Colonial times is a far cry from what it is today, they might recognize how the “Rules of Civility” could apply today—especially among those who listen to their iPods or text while in the presence of others!

To give young visitors a glimpse of what life was like for George Washington when he was their age, education assistant Susan Sherman is offering an opportunity for hands-on experience with a spectrum of Colonial games and chores. Games will include hoop and stick, Graces, cup and ball, nine pins, Jacob’s ladder and trap ball—where players launch a ball by tapping its stand and try to hit it with a bat before it falls to the ground.

Samplings of 18th-century work include grinding corn, stringing beans to dry and washing clothes in a tub with a scrub board. In addition, take-home crafts include creating models of the Washington’s house, making a patriotic pinwheel, and crafting a star necklace. Demonstrations will include a presentation by the Patawomeck American Indians and demonstrations by a brick mason and the spinners and weavers. Guests are invited to bring a creative, patriotic hat to enter in the hat contest or an instrument, so they can join fellow musicians in the pickers’ tent.

Yorktown Victory Center

While a young boy at Ferry Farm, Washington could never have foreseen the essential role he would play in the creation of a trailblazing nation with a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. The Yorktown Victory Center was created to commemorate his climactic accomplishment as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army: the surrender of British General Cornwallis.

The folks at the Yorktown Victory Center will be celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style—with a three-day event packed with hands-on activities and interactive demonstrations that are sure to be a memorable experience for visitors.

In a guided role-playing session called The Price of Freedom, guests selected from the audience will be invited to play the role of one of the types of people who were affected by the American Revolution. A “loyalist” would talk about his allegiance to his motherland, regardless of policy disagreements, while a “patriot” would talk about his opposition to the rule of a small island over a continent an ocean away. A visitor representing the women of the time will talk about her decision to either follow her husband to his army camp or   make a go of it on the farm alone.

Representatives of the enslaved people would consider the option of fighting for the British army with the promise that they would receive their freedom. Finally, a “signer” of the Declaration of Independence would convey the powerful quest for self-determination that motivated them to risk all they had, including their lives, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Permanent features of the Victory Center include an 18th-century farm and a Continental Army encampment. Visitors will have a chance to explore the working farm which features field crops of corn, tobacco and two types of cotton, along with a kitchen garden with more than 60 different herbs and nearly 20 types of vegetables. In addition, they will see a garden similar to one owned by slaves that includes unique products grown from seeds from Africa that were purchased as the ships came into port.

Visitors will also see demonstrations of processing flax and spinning and weaving fiber to make homespun clothes that at one time served as a statement of patriotism.

Throughout the day, military demonstrations will include an espionage presentation, artillery drills, militia training and tactical drills that will feature an opportunity for visitors to participate in a wooden musket drill.

A highlight of the celebration will be the display of a rare early broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence that dates back to July 1776.

July 4 Celebrations

What: The Fourth of July at George Washington’s Boyhood Home

When: Friday, July 4,  10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Ferry Farm, 268 Kings Highway, Stafford (Parking and shuttle available at Fraternal Order of Eagles, 21 Cool Springs Road)

Cost: Admission: $1 per person. Ages 2 and under, free.

Info: 540/370-0732; ferryfarm.org

What: Liberty Celebration

When: July 4–6, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Yorktown Victory Center, 200 Water Street, State Route 1020, Yorktown

Cost: $9.75 for adults; $5.50 for ages 6–12; under 6 is free.

Info:  historyisfun.org;  888/593-4682; 757/253-4838

Collette Caprara is a local writer  and artist.

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