New Castle News

September 30, 2013

Photos, Story: Festival recreates era of grist mill

Photos, Story: Festival recreates era of grist mill

Sam Luptak Jr.
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — History came to life this weekend at the 21st annual McConnell’s Mill Heritage Days Festival.

The two-day event, which seems to grow in size and attendance every year, featured a variety of displays, food, music, and activities. The Heritage Days Festival is meant to celebrate the just over 75-year time period in which the grist mill was operational, from 1852 through 1928.

The celebration got under way around 10 a.m. Saturday as costumed vendors set up booths featuring sales of their handmade arts and crafts inspired by the era. Other booths featured homemade canned goods or historical displays.

Costumed tribute artists walked around as Gen. Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln, and one booth featured abolitionist Clara Barton explaining her role and activities during the Civil War.

Speaking of the Civil War, a camp complete with costumed Union soldiers explained life during the war and featured a battery of cannons that were fired throughout the day.

Food vendors of all kinds lined the midways, and festival goers had no reason to go away hungry.

Other historical displays included examples of classic kitchen utensils, turn-of-the-century steam engines, a genuine Native American teepee that visitors could enter and a metal forging and ironworks display.

One booth featured an opportunity for young ones to simulate panning for gold and treasures in a flowing stream. For 8-year-old Christopher Ralston and his brother Lucas, 6, this was the highlight of the festival. Both had tried their luck and found treasures  in their pans. Christopher discovered several gemstones and some pointed teeth he said were shark teeth, while Lucas discovered a chunk of (fool’s) gold among his treasures.

The boys’ father, Robert, said the festival was a great way to spend some time together with his sons.

Debbie Merck and Dee Evans made the trip from Pittsburgh and were impressed by what they found.

“This is a really nice festival with a lot of cool stuff, a nice mix of food and art, and crafts,” Merck said.

“And a beautiful pretty day, too,”  Evans added.

Others throughout the day echoed similar sentiments, as they enjoyed activities ranging from blue grass bands and arts demonstrations to a tour of the old mill itself or just sitting on a bench and enjoying a bag of fresh-made kettle corn or a slice of home-baked pie.

For many, the McConnell’s Mill Heritage Festival has become an annual tradition and the chance to enjoy one final festival before the weather turns cold.