Step back in time
For the 10th year in a row, history will come alive in HillsboroughBy EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader
August 15. 2018 12:50PM
If you go...WHAT: Hillsborough Living History Event and Franklin Pierce Heritage DaysX
WHEN: Aug. 18-19 (Living History), Aug. 17-19 (Heritage Days)X
WHERE: Various locations, Hillsborough
TICKETS: Living History: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for ages 6-17 and free for children younger than 5; Franklin Pierce Homestead events are free
Hillsborough will again transport visitors to the early days of the country’s development with its annual Living History event and Heritage Days.
The town’s 10th annual presentation, which takes place Aug. 18-19, runs alongside Hillsborough’s Franklin Pierce Heritage Days on Aug. 17-19.
Re-enactors portraying past luminaries like presidents John Adams and George Washington, Betsy Ross and the children’s book author Laura Ingalls Wilder will be on hand to answer questions and/or offer demonstrations.
Outside, near the bright-white tented encampments, Civil War battle re-enactors will defend themselves while the public watches.
Visitors can also see an 18th-century magician, make cider or watch a blacksmith in action. Churning butter, taking care of laundry the old-fashioned way, or learning to dance the minuet are among other activities.
New this year will be chamber pot races, an ice-cream social and a pie-eating contest, according to Ellie Harbour, a member of the event’s steering committee, who’s worked on the program for its 10-year history.
“Children partner up and carry metal chamber pots over an obstacle course, fill the pots with some water and come back over the obstacle course,” Harbour says in an email.
Harbour remembers the fun of previous years and expects this year to meet all expectations.
“The food’s delicious,” she says. “We’ve had all sorts of entertainers over the years, with Benjamin Franklin, and we had Mark Twain ... and Abe Lincoln. Every year we have somebody different.”
Locals, like Judy Mitchell, a first-timer to the event, will offer wares such as handmade lotions and soaps made from goat’s milk.
Tom Hooker Hanford, of Goshen, Conn., will head “Uncanny Creatures and Uncommon Characters,” a colorful children’s program that features what Hanford calls “tall tales and some things that are a little bit spooky.” Hanford will bring to life traditional folklore with New England and European roots.
Hanford also will play the guitar and violin during the interactive program.
According to Hanford, some fun of the program comes from the unexpected.
“You just never know what’s going to happen,” he says, recalling one retelling of the folk song “Froggy Went A’Courting.”
“We were outdoors, and a kid was playing the part of the frog, and he was supposed to get married to Miss Mouse, and instead he ran in the opposite direction and leaped over a fence and just kept going. So ... he left her at the altar. That was a first.”
Harbour says this is the last year for Hillsborough’s Living History Event. After 10 years, the 10-member committee has decided the time is right for the next generation to take over.
“We’re hoping somebody else will, but at this point we don’t have anybody that seems to want to,” she says.
To cap off 10 years, Harbour says a photo book commemorating the event will be for sale.
“It’s kind of neat to have 30 or 40 photographers that joined together for it. They gave us their pictures to use in it. They’re beautiful pictures. It’s nice to have that to share with people.”
The event is funded through grants and the group’s rummage sale.
Like Harbour, it was tough for Hanford to narrow down what has been his favorite event over the years.
“I really enjoy the music down in Jonesboro, the 2nd South Carolina String Band. The people that play famous people like Dean Malissa’s George Washington, I just think that’s a really great way to get people intrigued with history, to make it just really come alive,” says Hanford.
Harbour says she’ll miss the camaraderie the committee has while planning the event, and seeing the results of their hard work is satisfying to her.
“It’s always breathtaking to me to drive up Jones Road and see all the tents of the re-enactors in the field and they’re cooking out by their tents. It just sets you right back in time,” she says. “The old-fashioned things that they do up there that the kids would never have known about — teaching them how they do laundry with the scrub board and making butter and making ice cream. The people in their costumes — it’s just fun to see it looking like the old days. And we’d have a horse and buggy that takes people around.”
The Franklin Pierce Heritage Days include tours of the Franklin Pierce Homestead, where visitors will be regaled with traditional costuming and lively discussions about life back centuries ago.
“We have a president, John Adams, coming to visit. He’s going to be doing a program called ‘My Wife Abigail Adams, America’s First Modern Woman,’” says Alan Dobrowolski, an administrator at the Franklin Pierce Homestead.
Dobrowolski says Franklin Pierce, the United States’ 14th president, always considered this his home.
“The house is fully furnished, as it would have been about 1824. I like to say it’s a non-museum house. It’s pretty much open and you walk through it just as somebody visiting would’ve walked through,” Dobrowolski says.
Harbour expects about 2,000 visitors over the weekend and about 200 volunteers will be on hand.