Fredonia’s history shared at festival

A blast from the past could be seen in Barker Common as the second annual Fredonia History Days kicked into high gear during the second day of festivities Saturday.

While the morning was specifically devoted to children’s activities, many historical events the festival is known for were reserved for the afternoon. During that time, energized square dancers stepped in time to the music and tales of medicine on the Civil War battlefields were told to eager ears.

“Doctor” Joe Bolivard was on-hand during the day to talk to people about his authentic collection of Civil War medicine display pieces. Surgery tools, empty anesthetic bottles and first aid equipment from that era were all part of his collection.

Bolivard, who is from Forestville, said he has kept his collection ever since he started re-enacting wars around the area about 30 years ago.

Also during the afternoon, historical societies from all across Chautauqua County gathered together to present artifacts and stories from the past to any and all history buffs.

“We definitely had a good turnout today,” Mary Langworthy, president of the Sheridan Historical Society, said at the end of the day. “We had a steady stream of people throughout the whole day. We had a sign-in book for people and we had many from all over the country stop by. A lot came out from Buffalo, too.”

Besides the local area, various cities represented in the sign-in book included Clarenden, Pa., Atlanta, Ga. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. One person even signed in all the way from Santa Monica, Calif.

Over by the Barker Common gazebo, Allegheny Crossing, an old-time string band specializing in folk music, performed tunes that got people out of their seats and into a folk dance routine.

Diane Clark and Bill Moran, directors of the Greystone Nature Preserve in the town of Pomfret, were two people who decided to try their hands at dancing.

“We decided to come to the festival today because we are very interested in the area around us, especially the historical aspects,” Moran said. “We’ve been looking forward to it for almost two weeks now.”

“This is a great way to live a community treasure and see Fredonia sparkle,” Clark said. “This is authentic community living and we are happy to see these people who love their community give back to it.”

Other groups represented under the historical tent included the towns of Pomfret, Arkwright, Harmony and Panama, the WCA Home, the Project: Underground railroad map of Chautauqua County, the Dunkirk Historical Society, Fredonia Grange No. 1 and the Robert H. Jackson Center of Jamestown.

Also during the festival, Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe dressed up as Mark Twain and provided walking tours of the downtown Fredonia area to several groups. Events continued on into the evening, as well, with historical trolley tours by horse-drawn carriage around downtown Fredonia. Todd Langworthy, the town of Pomfret historian and chairman of the festival, told stories about the buildings and people of Fredonia during the trolley tours.

“We had twice as many historical organizations this year compared to last, so we were glad they could all come out to the festival,” he said.

Langworthy also said he was thankful the rain didn’t put a damper on the festivities, despite the threat of severe weather Friday night. He went on to say he expects the festival to grow a little bit more next year, but stressed his intentions of continuing to stay within the budget.

“We really depend on our sponsors and donations since our pool of money is only so big. We don’t want to grow too much and bite off more than we can chew,” he said. “I’d like to see new events every year, however. The Victorian Dazzle, which this festival replaced, got stale because it was the same events year after year. It will be nice to see what we can offer that’s new for next year.”

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