Through the exhibits, events and activities they host throughout the year, the folks at the Fredericksburg Area Museum strive to serve as a community hub and introduce families to the history of our area. From the culture of the Patawomeck tribe to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and stories of today’s residents, the museum’s offerings this summer are a testament to its success in achieving those goals.

Sounds of Summer

The museum’s Friday night concerts, Sounds of Summer, that are held each week through September have become a weekly highlight for many local families. The concerts are held in historic Market Square, the site of Fredericksburg’s town hall and public market in the early 1800s, which is still abuzz as a community gathering place. In selecting musicians for the concert series, museum staff look for performers who are engaging, interactive and family-friendly. The intergenerational appeal of the featured groups is evident with both the youngsters who dance with endless energy and grown-ups who seem to transform into their dancing selves of yesteryear.

As an added attraction for the younger crowd, special children’s activities and take-home crafts are offered at a station that is open for drop-in participation throughout the concerts’ 7–9 p.m. time slot. Friday’s craft project will be making Fourth of July “firecrackers” from cardboard rolls and streamers.

In honor of Independence Day, Friday’s concert will feature the Fredericksburg Concert Band, which will present a patriotic symphony of music ranging from classic American show tunes to a medley of signature songs of the armed forces. In what is always a moving experience, the conductor invites all those who are serving or have served our country to stand when their song is played.

Theresa Cramer, education and public programs coordinator, said that such family experiences can spark both memories and bonding conversations. “I went to many museums with my family and I learned a lot about my family’s history through those trips,” she said. “When we went to the Air and Space Museum, my mom talked about her experience when she witnessed the first moon landing. Museums are a wonderful place for children to hear those personal stories and it’s how I learned about my grandparents’ experience of WWII.”

Cramer’s early experience with museums inspired her to become a volunteer when she was just 13 and, subsequently, to pursue degrees in historic preservation and museum studies.

Second Saturdays

In addition to the summer concerts, the museum hosts free Second Saturday crafts and learning sessions for children throughout the year, which include free admission for families to the museum’s exhibits.

One display that has especially engaged young visitors is the People and their Pets exhibit, which includes pet portraiture, stories of SPCA-rescued animals, and accounts of Fredericksburg’s Dog Mart, which was initiated in the late 1600s and is the oldest event of its kind in the United States. Also popular among children, parents and grandparents is The People’s Gallery, a rotating exhibit featuring items that local collectors have gathered. The display features John Atkins’ Disney Collection, which includes drawings from animated films, Disney World memorabilia, and even an autographed Mouseketeer hat—all sure to spark plenty of memories and conversations.

July’s Second Saturday, July 13, will be the perfect occasion to celebrate Bastille Day and the valor of Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown, before returning to France and becoming a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789. At the invitation of President James Monroe, Lafayette returned to America for a tour of the 24 states in 1824 and his itinerary included Fredericksburg.

“He arrived after sunset, and the city was illuminated throughout his route. Town Hall was decorated and a reception for him at Town Hall included speeches, a girls’ choir and a ball in his honor,” said Cramer. “According to reports of the time, hundreds of ladies thronged to welcome him!”

To commemorate his visit, children will craft medallions with Lafayette’s silhouette, as well as a French flag.

The following Sunday, the Bastille Day celebration will continue with a festival in Market Square coordinated by the Fredericksburg Sister City Association, featuring live music and authentic French street food, with proceeds benefiting the student summer exchange program with our sister city, Frejus, in France. Throughout the fall, Second Saturday activities will also celebrate the other three Sister Cities of Fredericksburg with a Pizza Palooza inspired by Este, Italy, a celebration of the Ghanaian festival Kundum, and an Explore Nepal! fest.

The focus of the Second Saturday event in August will be the “Spirit of ’45,” commemorating President Truman’s announcement of the end of WWII. The event will include a blood drive coordinated by the Rappahannock Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, in honor of the legacy and service of the men and women of America’s “greatest generation.” Displays will include items from the museum’s former World Aflame exhibit and will feature contributions of the Fredericksburg community to the war effort. Children will have an opportunity to make their own Red Cross hats and armbands inspired by the 1940s U.S. military uniforms.

“I hope our museum events will be both a fun-filled time but also spark conversations and create memories that families will take with them,” said Cramer. “My entire life was influenced by a trip my family took to a museum when I was a girl!”


Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

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