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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • WES FRANKLIN: Take a walk down History Alley

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  • I hope to see all of you this Saturday at the Neosho Fall Festival on the Square.
    There will be lots going on all day, so the kids won't have any room to complain about being bored this weekend.
    Just up the block from the Square, at 121 N. Washington, the Newton County Historical Society is hosting History Alley at the county historical park and museum. While the fall festival starts a little earlier and lasts a bit longer, History Alley is typically from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless the organizers have decided to go a little earlier and/or a little later.
    As always, there will be lots of old-timey activities — I call them the lost pioneer sciences — taking place, including blacksmithing, butter churning, wool spinning, and lots more.
    If you're like me, those sorts of things always seem to pick up the spirits somehow. That chop of the log-hewer and clang of the blacksmith accompany the twang of the banjo and squeaky call of the fiddle in such a fitting way. Combined with the drifting aroma of woodsmoke, it's as good a transport back in time as I can hope for, if I close my eyes.
    You'll see some Civil War soldiers milling about, interacting with the public, telling stories around the fire, perhaps cooking up some period rations and giving demonstrations.
    Also, History Alley gives other area historical societies and similar groups the opportunity to set up a booth and show the public just a little bit of what they’re about. That reason is actually why History Alley got started in the first place several years ago.
    History Alley has been a part of Neosho Fall Festival ever since some good folks revived the latter event in 2007 or 2008 after a hiatus of several years. Like Fall Festival, History Alley is absolutely free to attend.
    Over the last few years, combined thousands of people have walked through History Alley to see the kind of things some their great-great-grandparents, or great-grandparents, or even grandparents used to do, or see, on a routine basis as just part of everyday life.
    Those who came to History Alley in the past have seen straw broom-making, blacksmithing, candle-making, corn shelling and grinding, wheat grinding, log hewing, spinning, lye-soaping making, Dutch oven cooking, butter churning, black powder weapon displays and more. I don’t know what all will be there this year (I don’t have the list in front of me), but I do know you and your kids will enjoy it.
    We always have some really great volunteers doing some really cool things. We can't thank them enough. Because it wasn't for the volunteers, there wouldn’t be a History Alley event. These folks gladly spend most of their Saturday showing others the “lost arts” (or “sciences” — I still haven't decided which fits best) because they want to. And they all seem to enjoy it as much as the people watching or participating do. Some of it isn't exactly easy, either. It's real work. Try hewing logs with a heavy ax all day or banging away with a several-pound hammer in front of a hot coal forge. That can get exhausting. But our volunteers do it because they want to.
    Page 2 of 2 - And, like me, I think they just can't help but get a good feeling when a youngster smiles over getting to make his or her very own candle or stir some lye soap or shell some corn. Simple things, you know?
    It's amazing how much joy it can bring. And that's why we hold History Alley.
    See you Saturday.
    Wes Franklin serves on the Newton County Historical Society board of directors. He is also public relations and events coordinator for the City of Neosho. He can be reached at 417-658-8443.
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