Pioneer Village preps for annual Spring Fest

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 26, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.
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Justin Gehrig forges metal during a recent event at Pioneer Village in Searcy. Similar activities will be on display when Pioneer Village observes Spring Fest on Saturday.

— Volunteers at Searcy’s Pioneer Village are encouraging area residents who have never been to the village to mark their annual Spring Fest, on Saturday and May 5, on their calendars.

The event, set to go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. May 5, is one of three open houses planned for the village this year. Admission and parking are free, but donations will be accepted to help support the nonprofit organization.

The village, a project organized by the White County Historical Society, has been in its present location since 2002 and is open year-round for prearranged guided tours and field trips. The grounds include several buildings, farm equipment and other historical, 19th-century-style items.

“We do it for the children, to preserve and pass on that lifestyle that all of our families came from,” said Elizabeth Heard, chairwoman of Pioneer Village. “Even if they weren’t from White County, we’re all from families who went through and lived these same lifestyles.”

Heard and a group of dedicated volunteers who run the village will be on hand for the fest to help with demonstrations and re-enactments. A chuck wagon and a chuck-wagon master will be on hand, along with pioneer-style cooking demonstrations, antique farm tractors, woodcarvers, leather workers and a blacksmith.

In addition to the stations run by Pioneer Village volunteers, vendors will sell food, including fudge and kettle corn. Area Master Gardeners will have their annual plant sale during the festival, and a photographer will be on-site to take old-fashioned photos and “Wanted” poster photos.

“We will also be showing off our new ‘old’ pioneer cabin that we’ve started building,” Heard said. “It’s in the beginning stages, but they’ll be able to see how a log cabin is built.”

Heard said Spring Fest, now in its 10th year, draws many families to the village. Farm animals are a big hit with kids each year, along with the blacksmith shop and jump-rope demonstrations.

“We have people who come from all over the state, along with people who have never been who live right here locally,” Heard said.

Though the village has been in its current location for more than a decade, Heard said some residents still don’t know the reason behind the group of old buildings. She said she hopes Spring Fest will give all Searcy residents a chance to come out and see what it’s all about.

“My favorite part of the fest is interacting with people, in particular those who have not been before,” Heard said. “When they come, they will be repeat attendees. They’re just blown away that all this is right here in Searcy.”

Heard recalled one particular tour when a group of tween girls was watching a clothes-washing demonstration.

“The volunteer went into the house, and when I was walking by, those girls were just scrubbing away, washing the clothes,” Heard said. “One pushed the other out of the way and said, ‘No, let me show you; you’re not doing it right.’”

While washing clothes with a washboard and kettle may not be a skill the girls will use at home, Heard said, several demonstrations at Spring Fest will teach skills that are usable, even today.

This year’s fest will include a demonstration on home canning.

“Canning is making a huge comeback, and we’re excited that we can have something from the past be useful for people today,” Heard said.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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