The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Ferry Farm throws a party for George
For his 282nd birthday, George Washington ate chocolate cake.
Ferry Farm, the site of Washington’s boyhood home, honored the Founding Father on Saturday with a birthday party.
Despite weather concerns, the party was moved indoors and offered a variety of crafts, educational skits and of course, cake. Washington himself was in attendance to help celebrate.
Ferry Farm, located off State Route 3 in southern Stafford, hosts the event each year. However, this year’s party was one in a series of events celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of Stafford County.
“A new project we’re working on lets people share their Stafford story,” said Diane Elstein, manager of interpretation at the historical site off State Route 3 in southern Stafford. “Current or former Stafford residents can come and share their stories of living in Stafford, talk about their experiences and describe how the area has changed over the years.”
The project is ongoing, and anyone interested can record their stories at Ferry Farm and other Fredericksburg and Stafford historic sites throughout the year.
“It’s about preserving a legacy and heritage for future generations to look back on,” Elstein said.
Another new addition to the party this year was an event called “Grossology,” which replaced the stone-throwing competition that was canceled due to snow.
Conducted by Zack Cunningham, manager of educational programs, Grossology focuses on the disgusting aspects of life in the colonial era, such as hygiene, medical practices and bathroom habits.
“It’s a really interesting way to think about the time period,” Cunningham said. “Kids love gross things, and it’s a great way to make history interesting and get kids involved.”
Throughout the day, Cunningham told interested visitors about Colonial medical practices, which often involved purposely bleeding the patient. He also told kids about how the wigs that the Founding Fathers wore were made.
“They would lather them with animal fat first, so that the curls would stay in place,” Cunningham said. “Then they would add spices and things in an attempt to make them smell a bit better.”
Grossology appeared to be a hit, leaving the younger party-goers disgusted but fascinated.
“My favorite part was hearing about the bathroom stuff,” said 6 year-old Mara Shaw, who attended the party with her mother and several fellow Girl Scouts.
For those with more sensitive dispositions, multiple crafts were available, such as making a Colonial toy called a whirligig, or learning how to make a natural compass out of a needle and water. In addition, kids could make a three-cornered hat or make a birthday card for Washington.
“I really like making the cards,” said 5 year-old Victoria Burns, who came to the event with her younger sister, Isabella. “I want to go give it to George.”
Washington was present throughout the entire party, and was an added surprise for many in attendance. The actor who portrayed Washington often attends special events around Fredericksburg, and is always full of historical information to share with the crowd.
“We go to a lot of George Washington events, but we’ve never met George before,” said Terry Lein of Woodbridge, who has taken her 4 year-old son Thomas to Mount Vernon several times.
“I want to teach him about the history of the area and get him interested in American history,” Lein said.
Throughout the day, party-goers could take a break to enjoy brief theater performances that gave insights into Washington’s childhood, as well as the process that archaeologists and historians go through to piece together the story of Washington’s life.
“This just gives you an idea of the questions we ask ourselves and what we want to learn,” said chief archaeologist David Muraca after a skit that pondered what would have happened if Washington had joined the Navy as a boy.
While the performances, crafts and educational programs at the party were a hit, there was only one true star.
“Everything seemed really interesting, especially Grossology,” said 11 year-old Drew Withers. “But I really only came here for the cake.”
Hope Racine 540/374-5403