Take a weekend trip to 1799 with the Fair at New Boston

Signora Bella entertains the crowd at the Fair at New Boston by walking on a slack rope during her show in 2018. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Signora Bella entertains the crowd at the Fair at New Boston by walking on a slack rope during her show in 2018. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

While Labor Day weekend is a time for getting away, there’s one group that takes its getaways several centuries back and invites the public to join in.

The 37th Annual Fair at New Boston has set the time travel dial to the end of the 18th century — 1799, a time when Springfield was starting to happen with a brand-new newspaper, the U.S. Navy was getting its start and a Frenchman named Napoleon was rising to power in Europe.

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The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Springfield area in 1799 will be recreated from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1 at George Rogers Clark Park, 930 S. Tecumseh Road. The event will go on rain or shine.

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Larry Pfeifer, left, and Dale Hawley talk to visitors about life in the 1st. Mad River Lite Artillary Unit at last year’s Fair at New Boston Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Larry Pfeifer, left, and Dale Hawley talk to visitors about life in the 1st. Mad River Lite Artillary Unit at last year’s Fair at New Boston Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Larry Pfeifer, left, and Dale Hawley talk to visitors about life in the 1st. Mad River Lite Artillary Unit at last year’s Fair at New Boston Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

According to Pam Cottrel, one of the fair’s longtime organizers, each year is unique.

“I like to say if you’ve been here before, you haven’t seen this year’s fair,” she said. “Not all the people, artisans and entertainers, are back and that makes it fascinating from year to year.”

The first thing visitors will experience is that the entrance gate has changed, making it easier to get in and out. Instead of a play, a one-woman Shakespeare show will be performed by Liz Culbertson for an entertaining departure.

Cottrel said the Native American village continues to grow and improve each season, with new and returning actors there.

“There’s a lot of talent and research that goes into it,” she said. “You will not find a 1790 village this authentic out there.”

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James Hartzler and Lili Roberts try to pull each other of the stumps they were standing on as they play a game at the Fair at New Boston last summer. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

James Hartzler and Lili Roberts try to pull each other of the stumps they were standing on as they play a game at the Fair at New Boston last summer. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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James Hartzler and Lili Roberts try to pull each other of the stumps they were standing on as they play a game at the Fair at New Boston last summer. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The sound of cannon fire is as common as a clock tower at the fair. The battle recreation will also have new twists with battle demonstrations replacing the recreation this time out. The area has been cleared in the woods to accommodate more seating for visitors.

Historical speakers including Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, Chief Black Hoof and George Rogers Clark will move to the inside of the park’s barn from the fair master’s tent. The move will allow more room and a comfortable breeze can blow through.

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While the event is dedicated to the days before electronics and things were primitive, a way to bring the present to the past is a popular scavenger hunt. Introduced by local high school students last year, the scavenger hunt is returning. Interested people can check in at the front gate to find out how to be involved during their visit.

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Vannessa Chance cooks over an open fire Saturday at the military encampment at last year’s Fair at New Boston. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Vannessa Chance cooks over an open fire Saturday at the military encampment at last year’s Fair at New Boston. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Vannessa Chance cooks over an open fire Saturday at the military encampment at last year’s Fair at New Boston. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

“We’re in a time when Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook are things people like to do and it’s fun to see younger people enjoying it,” said Cottrel. “It won’t distract from the fair.”

This year will mark the end of a long tenure of tavern masters, the Shuirrs. But new blood such as new fair master Tom Rumpke, who’s managed the coffee house in the past, and Helen Miller, a recent college graduate, who will be assistant fair master, will keep things fresh for years to come.

“This way the fair will stay the same and change. It’s fun to see a new generation help keep Springfield’s past alive,” Cottrel said.

Visitors are reminded that cash only will be accepted for admission; no debit or check cards are accepted.


HOW TO GO

What: The Fair at New Boston

Where: George Rogers Clark Park, 936 South Tecumseh Road, Springfield

When: Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission: Ages 12-older $10; active military with ID $7; children ages 6-11 $3; and children ages 5-under free

More info:www.fairatnewboston.org

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