People should come ready to learn, and to have a good time while they’re at it, during a visit to Ferry Farm for George Washington’s 288th birthday celebration Monday.
There will be a lot going on at the site of his boyhood home, said Alma Withers, the director of education programming at Ferry Farm.
“We’ve got activities for all ages. We do history theater performances that are short little skits that are really a way to learn history in a fun way,” she said.
Activities will include games children played in the Colonial era, such as graces, in which girls toss and catch wooden hoops with a pair of sticks; and hoop and stick, where the player taps a hoop with a stick to roll it along the ground. There will also be an area set up on the lawn to play 10 Pin, the precursor to modern bowling.
Somewhat quieter activities include making a Colonial-era tricorn hat and a birthday card for Washington. Historical interpreters will also be onsite to answer questions about Revolutionary War camp life and take children through the paces of military drills.
The celebration will also include tours of the Washington House with reproductions of objects and furniture that would have been found in the Washington home.
Archaeological digs over the years, and documents of what was in the house at the time of the death of Washington’s father, Augustine, guided curators in placing the home’s furnishings.
“They are reproductions of what the archaeologists have found and reproductions of the probate inventory that was done after Augustine died,” Withers said. “Our curators have done a wonderful job reproducing, as close as we can, what the Washingtons had when they lived here.”
As a special treat, the archaeological lab will be open during the celebration and visitors will be able to see some of the artifacts that have been unearthed over the years at Ferry Farm, where Washington lived until his late teens or early 20s.
“We have over 100,000 artifacts that have been found. We have china from the Revolutionary Era all the way up to modern toys and a toothbrush with Goolrick’s name on it. Someone who lived here got a toothbrush from Goolrick’s,” Withers said of the drug store that still stands on Caroline Street.
There’s also a length of a shirt sleeve with the letters “GW” monogrammed on it. “It could have belonged to George Washington,” Withers said.
Historic interpreter Greg Fisher, playing Washington, will also appear at the birthday celebration to answer questions.
“When people come, it might be good to have a couple of questions in mind about something they’d like to know about George,” Withers said.
One other activity Withers said people seem to enjoy is the stone throw challenge, where people try to toss a rock across the Rappahannock River, from Stafford side to the Fredericksburg side.
“George Washington was known for his strength. There are a couple of stories about how he was able to throw stones across the river,” Withers said. “Every year, if the weather cooperates, we put a bucket of rocks down by the river and people get three chances to throw a rock across the river. If they do it, they get a medal. The last one to do it, years ago, was a young man who was a catcher for James Monroe High School. It’s not an easy feat.”
The aim for the folks at Ferry Farm is to use the artifacts, the archaeological features on the site, the reenactors, the activities and the games to teach a bit of history on Washington’s birthday.
“We want people to leave with information that they didn’t have about the Washington family and they’ll have lots of different opportunities learn,” Withers said.
Withers believes everyone who shows up to the event will have a good time.
“What I enjoy about any of the things we do is that it’s for all ages,” Withers said. “We see grandparents come with their grandchildren and parents with their children in strollers and everybody’s learning and they’re smiling. That’s the exciting thing. History is not boring. History can be fun and that’s what we want people to go away with.”
There will also be cake served throughout the day, she said.
Also happening Monday is the free birthday celebration at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, which will include music and reenactors.
James Cameron as John Robeson, a free 18th-century African American, and Dave Paldafino as James Madison will each talk about events of the Revolutionary War, said Park Ranger Scott Hill. The 45-minute talks begin at 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Monday.
Cake and punch will be served at 1 p.m. in the Log House Tea Room, which was built in the 1930s as a park visitor center. The log house features a vaulted ceiling, rich wood paneling and original furnishings.
Hill said it’s a good place for refreshments.
“We put the party in there so that people will not only gain the tradition of having the cake and the punch, but they’re doing it in this beautiful historic structure,” Hill said. “It’s a gorgeous building.”
The Memorial House Museum, a Colonial Revival structure, will be open for tours throughout the day. The memorial house is not an exact reproduction of a Colonial building, but it’s still full of history.
“It’s probably not as it was,” Hill said. “The house is too large and not on the proper location, but that doesn’t matter. Colonial Revival was about invoking that sense, that feeling of being at one with Washington and the people that were here. That’s what you see in the Colonial Revival landscape.”
At 2 p.m., Colonial Faire will perform period music in the visitor center auditorium.
“The audiences really love them,” Hill said of group.
Hill said the 550-acre site in Colonial Beach, with picnic areas and access to a beach on the Potomac River, offers visitors a chance at “good quality time.”
“George Washington is still a world-renowned figure, and people come from all around the world either wanting to experience walking the grounds where Washington was born or just being part of this area,” Hill said. “If we can have a special event on his birthday, it just gives people another reason to come here and see what it is we have to offer here.”