It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmastide around Locust Grove! Our staff and volunteers have been sprucing up the store and decking the halls in preparation for Christmastide, our holiday program. Enter the year 1816 for a Croghan family celebration with music, dancing, games, delicious smells in the hearth kitchen, and plenty of holiday cheer. Our marvelous Costumed Interpreters have trained and prepared all year for this weekend, and will populate the house as members of the extended Croghan and Clark families might have two hundred years ago during the holiday season. In 2015 in the Visitors’ Center, we’ll have children’s activities, treats, a small seasonal book sale, and our annual 20% off store sale. Christmastide is one of the only times visitors have the chance to see the house at night, so please stop by for a visit! Let’s peek in on the preparations, shall we?
At a recent dress rehearsal, costumed interpreters moved throughout the house practicing their dance steps, whist playing, and historical improvisation skills. A few cast members were missing from this rehearsal, but during Christmastide, expect a full complement of Clarks, Croghans and their cousins! I stopped in the dining room to talk to Owen Gwathmey (Jamie E.) and his wife, Ann Clark Gwathmey (Janice S.), George Rogers Clark’s oldest sister. The Gwathmeys have eleven living children, and moved to Kentucky because, as Ann said “the whole family had settled here but us.” Their son Samuel laid out Jeffersonville, Indiana and in 1816, their son John had just sold the hostel The Indian Queen for $20,000! Their children did very well for themselves, and the Gwathmeys are very proud, as they should be.
Upstairs, I found Sarah (Mrs. Richard) Taylor, portrayed by Tammy B., fiddling for the dancers. Mrs. Taylor is the mother of Elizabeth Taylor and the mother-in-law to Peggy, who is married to Zachary, that military man who is away serving at Fort Howard in Wisconsin. Both Peggy and Eliza will be joining Mrs. Taylor at Locust Grove for the holiday revels. Tammy auditioned to be a Costumed Interpreter at Locust Grove after she became “bewitched by the fashion” of the period. Tammy, like all of our interpreters has become deeply involved in the history and background of her historical character. Tammy muses that “There is little written about Sarah, as is often the case with women of history. One creates a character based on information and reflections of others, her background, who she married, what they did, and the success of her children. Something happens through the process of improvising in character with one another. Relationships between characters form, as do real relationships among CIs. These relationships really keep me engaged in the process. We struggle together, have great laughs and live in another time together.”
Amy L. is the theatrical director for the Costumed Interpreter program, and also portrays Emilia Clarke, the wife of Nicholas Clarke, who was William Croghan’s nephew. Amy remarks, “I am constantly impressed at the new levels I see our cast members pushing themselves to. Our new recruits this year have taken an amazing amount of initiative to reach and raise the bar, quickly learning the material and translating it into a natural performance. Our alums continue to research, rehearse, and create amazing, authentic garments. I have also noticed more and more of them bringing period skills and other elements of everyday life, such as letter writing, reading and other educational materials, into their performances. I hope everyone realizes how much work these folks put into being able to sit there and look perfectly natural and effortless.” It is indeed amazing to wander through the house and hear the Croghan brothers arguing over who owes who after a game of Speculation, while George Rogers Clark reminisces with his sisters!
Program Manager Brian Cushing runs the show behind the scenes, but be sure to look for him and tell him what you think of the event! He is filled with excitement and gratitude for the dedication of the volunteer Costumed Interpreters. He borders on gushing as he states, ” I just want to say how amazed I am that we have a team of volunteers with the variety of talents it takes to pull this off, the drive to put the massive amount of work in it takes in out of passion for it, and how proud I am to be able to work with them. We’ve gotten used to seeing these folks doing what they do at Locust Grove but their professionalism, nuanced attention to a broad range of details, and the broad range of skills at work in each everything they do is truly unique. They have earned this moment in the spotlight.”
Three of our interpreters–Sam L. as William Croghan, Jr., Mia S. as Lucy Croghan, and Brandon V. as Dr. John Croghan–had another moment in the spotlight and appeared on Great Day Live to talk about Christmastide. You can find their fabulous appearance here.
Christmastide will be 5:30-9PM on Friday and 4-9PM on Saturday. Admission to Christmastide is $8 for adults and is free for children 12 and under. On Friday, guests will have an especially exciting treat–an actual Yeoman Warder from the Tower of London, more commonly known as a Beefeater, will make a special presentation at 6:30PM. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn more about the Tower and perhaps even Christmas traditions from across the pond! We just love Christmastide, and we hope to see you this weekend for a cup of cheer!
Photographs courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography and Hannah Zimmerman.