The 1860s Civilian Celebration 2017
Enjoying Your Impression
by Darline DeMott
Enjoying Your Impression
by Darline DeMott
The event was a resounding success. Over 125 reenactors and living historians brought the 1860s to life in historic Capon Springs and Farms Resort, in Capon Springs, WV, on May 5, 6, & 7, 2017. The event featured workshops, lectures, a market fair, living history demonstrations, a Victorian Ball – and so much more. New and experienced participants learned and shared information together throughout the weekend – and more than once was heard, “I don’t want to leave. This is so wonderful!” And so it was.
Our 1860s Civilian Celebration Facebook group began to buzz with excitement as the date grew near – conversations turned from wardrobe planning and sewing projects, to packing and traveling:
“I was up until 1 AM last night finishing my bonnet.”
“I am sitting in a meeting hand sewing on my bonnet right now....”
It was over two years in the planning, and a culmination of hundreds (could be thousands!) of hours of prep work. But the hard work paid off.
“I'm one of those "works great under pressure" types. Leaving for the conference tomorrow, but I just finished my dress last Thursday night, made a new tucked petticoat yesterday, and hoping to have a few sets of new collars and cuffs cut out to hand finish in the car on the way tomorrow...See you all soon!”
“Just heard ... the country is having a shortage of all various forms of STARCH! I wonder why?”
“Husband observes: We need an hourly Countdown Clock for BonnetPallooza!”
“Eeeee. Boarding pass printed. T-23 hrs”
“Clear skies and on my way!!”
“I am beyond excited, it is finally here!!! See you all soon, safe travels!”
And it WAS here, at last. As folks began arriving, the buzz moved from Facebook to the air. Friends reconnected, people “recognized” each other from the Civilian Civil War Closet group (Hey, I know you! So great to finally meet you in person!), introductions, hugs, laughter. Soon the resort was bustling as bags were unpacked and clothing was “fluffed” and organized. The resort welcomed us with an impressive steak dinner and bountiful buffet, and we gathered afterward for the first official gathering to kick off the event: the Soiree.
Hostess Marie Clyne asked folks to introduce themselves, and tell a little about what brought them into living history. The “Tea Cups” group from Florida turned out to be a great bunch of storytellers and we all appreciated their enthusiasm. “Enthusiasm” – how perfect a descriptor for the thread that ran through our stories! The rain subsided just long enough for most folks to get to their cottages, then returned to dance on rooftops and porches until morning.
It was workshops on Friday, and a wonderful Show and Tell gathering after dinner. Participants also visited the vendors in the Market Fair (several times!). We made ribbon chatelaines with Kay Cogswell, learned period knitting with Marie Clyne, sleuthed the seams and learned so much from Carolann Schmitt, improved our buttonhole prowess with Jim Ruley, and created period watercolors under the tutelage of Major Caudill. Folks that did not participate in the workshops explored the resort and surrounding area, or chatted on wide porches. John and Christine Milleker welcomed customers to their Travelling Photography Studio and fascinated all who watched their authentic tintype photography process.
Our luncheon lecture, “Table Manners and Mid-19th Century Dining Etiquette” had us minding our “Ps and Qs” under Marie Clyne’s watchful eye! In the late afternoon, dance callers Tom and Lesley Mack held a period dance workshop to give us a preview and some practice for Saturday’s ball. The dining room was filled with lively dinner conversation as participants discussed the day’s events. As the daylight waned, it was a lovely sight to see ladies and gentlemen promenading in period dress to the Meeting House for the Show and Tell session. So many treasures shared by loving owners who happily provided details. What fun as door prize numbers were called and lucky winners made their selections! Thank you to the vendors and others who donated a wide variety of valuable gifts.
Saturday dawned clear and cool as the resort came to life. After another hearty breakfast in the dining room (Can you believe I ate hot cereal AND scrambled eggs, bacon and toast AND pancakes with syrup?), we gathered for the morning’s lectures. Carolann Schmitt shared her love of research and gave us plenty to think about during her presentation, “Enjoying Your Impression: Research is Half the Fun”. Next, Mellissa Strobel shared a bevy of photographs in her presentation, “Enhancing Your Impression with Material Culture”. Dr. Angela Baker made us very grateful for 21st century plumbing as she led us through the dirty truth about, “Pipes, Night Soil, and Sanitation.” Each of these presentations gave participants useful takeaway information and ideas for their own impressions.
Lunch was another bountiful buffet, and many ladies commented that dessert with every meal could mean an extra tug on the corset strings to fit into their ball gown! Kay Gnagey presented a unique fashion show with seventeen individuals dressed to depict “A Day at the Spa” in the 1860s featuring the earliest rising housemaid and hotel staff, to travelers from different stations in life. Kay’s commentary was delightful and the models received warm applause. The afternoon schedule had several offerings including Music En Plein Aire (which moved inside due to a chilly “plein aire”), a Conversation with President Lincoln, a group tintype photo, and more visits to the Market Fair before dinner. Ladies also gathered to prepare for the ball with Tea and Stylings, enjoying having their hair styled and, if needed, assistance in getting dressed. Again, business was brisk at Milliker’s Photography Studio as folks arrived in ball attire to have their tintype made.
At 7:30pm, the Grand March stepped off in high style to the magical music of the Shenandoah Valley Minstrels. Dance callers Tom and Lesley Mack, and John and Elaine Masciale shared the duties and kept the dancers moving through three sets during the evening. A sweet and savory repast provided just the right sustenance between sets. Again, a lovely scene brought the 1860s to life in the resort as people strolled about and gentlemen escorted ladies to their cottages or the main house.
Rev. John Taylor Brantley led a lovely period worship service before breakfast on Sunday morning, after which Living History Interactive Presentations and Discussions filled the morning until lunch. Participants enjoyed finding the presentations around the resort: Ladies’ Aid Society Meeting (Adrienne Robertson Ogle and Vee Hansen); Poor in the Rural South and Refugeeing (Kathleen Yurkonis, Jennifer Green, Amie Clark); Period Quilting (Shelly Reetz); Adding Religion to your Reenacting (John Brantley); Music and Musicians (John and Elaine Masciale); Dressing for the Event (Marie Clyne); Medical and Apothecary (Kent and Melissa Schod); Portraying a Famous Person: Governor Helm of Kentucky (Steve Lindsey); Becoming a Certified Interpreter (Mike Reetz). After yet another delicious lunch buffet, folks began to regretfully say goodbye. Last minute shopping kept the Market Fair busy, and at 2:00pm the group gathered for closing words.
Just as the chorus of greetings echoed on Thursday, the heartfelt and sometimes tearful goodbyes filled the afternoon as friends reluctantly parted for home. But not everyone left – a small group arranged to “take the waters” at the spa in 19th century style. Photographs of their colorful bathing costumes lit up the internet when it was over.
And then, it WAS over. The resort became quieter, and as soon as folks reached cell and internet service, the buzz came back to the Facebook group! The comments were heartwarming for the organizers:
“Thank you so much for this event! Hands drown the best 1860s event so far for me!”
“Can't say enough about how lovely this place was... staff was top notch, but this is a friendly place and everyone was so helpful. What a history this place has.”
“I enjoyed chatting with other attendees at meals. I had not arrived with or roomed with friends, but feel that I made several friends over the 24 hours I was there.”
“It was hard at first but I loved no cell phone, TV or radio. I loved sleeping to the sound of a running creek outside my room. I LOVED meeting so many kind, knowledgeable people and learning more about proper wardrobes.”
“The absence of digital connection was a lovely breath of fresh air.”
“We loved Sunday morning having small group conversations with folks.”
“I loved meeting so many people who are so very willing to share all their knowledge about this new adventure my husband and I are entering. Can’t wait for more. Wish we would have stayed through to Monday, to have had time to explore the farm.”
“I loved sharing the discovery of the resort with the attendees. It was so fun to hear the enthusiasm confirming how wonderful the place is for a living history event. I loved reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”
We really must take a moment to thank the owners and staff of Capon Springs Resort and Farms. They embraced our vision and dream and made it their own. They were absolutely wonderful to work with and we look forward to planning for 2018. But first, we need sleep. Thank you everyone, for an absolutely amazing experience! See you next year!!!