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Monday, November 20, 2017, 2:08 a.m.

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History to come alive at Pioneer Village fest

By Carol Rolf

This article was published October 29, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

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Pioneer Village will host its 10th annual Fall Fest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 5. Among volunteers planning to participate are Tom Bird, a Civil War re-enactor, and Carolyn Kenney, who is in charge of coordinating musical groups that will provide live entertainment at the weekend event

— This weekend in Searcy, the public is invited to take a step back in time as Pioneer Village hosts its 10th annual Fall Fest.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 5. There is no admission charge.

Elizabeth Heard of Searcy is chairwoman of the Friends of Pioneer Village, the volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the site open. She is a member of the White County Historical Society, which manages the village, at 1200 Higginson St. in Searcy.

Heard said she expects approximately 2,500 people to attend the weekend event.

“This is the largest of the three open houses we host,” Heard said, noting that there is a spring open house and a Christmas open house.

“A special attraction this year will be living-history presentations at the Little Red School and the Gordon House. Two young ladies — members of the White County 4-H program — will do these programs,” Heard said.

“Riley Allen of Searcy will talk about the Gordon House, which is a log house built with logs that have been carbon-dated to 1865,” Heard said. “A family by the name of Gordon built the house and lived in it in the community of Providence, north of Judsonia. Then it sat vacant for years and years. It was donated to the White County Historical Society by Mrs. Jim Yingling and children in memory of Mr. Yingling.

“Savannah Watkins of Pangburn will give the history of the schoolhouse. The school dates to 1885 and came from the Little Red community near Pangburn; it was used as a one-room schoolhouse through the 1945 school year.”

Civil War re-enactors from Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 397 will also be doing living history at the open house. Tom Bird of Searcy said members of the organization will set up camp Friday night and remain on the grounds until Sunday. He said the re-enactors will fire a canon and provide infantry and cavalry demonstrations.

Another special attraction at this year’s Fall Fest will be Native American life activities, such as grinding corn and building a wickiup, which is a dome-shaped dwelling similar to a wigwam, Heard said.

Pioneer Village features several other authentic buildings on the grounds that date from the late 1800s to approximately 1930. There’s the trapper cabin, complete with tanned furs, and an old tin building that once served as the Pangburn Community Jail. There is a general store and the Garner Depot, which, Heard said, was donated to Pioneer Village in 2005 by L.B. Weaver in memory of Marie Weaver and is being restored. The depot houses a gift shop during open-house events.

Guides dressed in period costume will greet visitors to the village. Among them will be Carolyn Kenney of Searcy, who is in charge of music for the weekend.

“I just wander around and make sure everyone is doing OK. We will have musicians all over the place all day long on Saturday. The music makes it very festive,” she said.

“We’ll have a gospel group when visitors enter the village,” Kenney said. “There will be a larger group of musicians at the gazebo, including Gwen Napier of Pangburn. They play dulcimer, bass and auto harp. There will be other musicians at other spots.

“I have been a volunteer out here for about four years. I just love it. I especially like explaining the history to students.”

The open house will also feature kettle corn, a bake sale, food vendors, pioneer games for children, chuck-wagon cooking, toy trains, pioneer crafts, farm animals, clogging, square dancing, the Searcy Line Dancers, pioneer demonstrations, quilting and blacksmithing.

Parking is also free at the open house and directed by members of Boy Scout troops 345 and 157.

Heard said Pioneer Village was established in the 1960s as a result of a cooperative effort of the White County Fair Board, the White County Historical Society and other interested individuals. The village was located at the White County Fairgrounds until 2002, when it was moved to its current location.

Donations to Pioneer Villages are graciously accepted at all of the open-house events, Heard said.

“That’s how we keep things open,” she said, smiling. “All donations go toward the improvement and maintenance of the village.

“We hope the public will come to our Fall Fest and to our Christmas open house on Dec. 2. It is a one-day event, and the village will be decorated as it might have been in the 1800s. It provides a real good feeling that will get you in the Christmas spirit.”

For more information on Pioneer Village, call (501) 580-6633 or (501) 278-5010.

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