Dover's 18th Century Market Fair a fun trip back to a simpler time.
We modern-day First Staters don't have to go anywhere to get our entertainment: much of what we want is as close as the nearest keyboard.
But in the past, people had to travel to see the latest amusements and performers, something we 21st century Delawareans will be doing Nov. 2 to see the 18th Century Market Fair on The Green in Dover.
The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free.
This will be the fourth year of the increasingly popular event, which recreates the sounds and sights of early American market fairs. With many early Americans often living far apart from each other, these events were a chance to gather together, see and buy new products and trade the latest news and gossip.
"We're really excited about the Market Fair this year," said Sarah Zimmerman, interpretive program coordinator for First State Heritage Park, which is sponsoring the fair. "We're expanding what we've done in the past and we have new craftsmen and a lot more activities for people as well."
Two returning acts from past Market Fairs will be Signora Bella, the Great Italian Equilibrist, and Dr. Balthasar's Marvelous Miracle Medicine Show.
Bella, aka Jody Ellis, juggles flaming torches and knives, all while balancing on a giant ball and rope. George Washington once recorded having seen an artist like Bella, whose profession was described then as a "slack-rope walker."
Michael Follin's Dr. Balthasar is a slippery-as-an-eel snake-oil salesman whose fast-talking patter will convince everyone to buy his "patented medicines," good for everything from curing the common cold to raising the dead (as long as the subject hasn't been deceased for too long).
In addition to the entertainment, those at the fair will get the rare opportunity to see traditional craftsmen at work.
A first-timer at the Market Fair will be Timothy, the Irish Linen Worker, who turns ordinary flax straw into serviceable linen products using authentic tools, including a loom from the 1790s. Tim Nealeigh provides a running commentary as he works, giving logophiles a chance to learn the story behind common expressions such as "raising a dog's hackles" and why some youngsters are known as "tow-headed" and "flaxen haired."
In addition, Rudy Tucker of Virginia will demonstrate hand-thrown pottery on a foot-powered wheel and Jeff Moore will exhibit his skills in making beer using 1700s-style troughs and tools.
A new addition to the demonstrations is powder horn making. Ed Long, of Pennsylvania, will show how to make a powder horn, including the intricate stage of carving. His beautifully finished horns have won numerous blue ribbons and will be offered for sale.
Blacksmithing, woodworking, spinning, and silhouette making also will be among the trades visitors can see, Zimmerman said.
With temperatures forecast to be in the low 60s and only a slight chance of precipitation, a good time should be had by all.
"It's a lot of fun for kids, but it's great for families, too, because it's got things parents and kids can do together," Zimmerman said. "They'll be able to make a lot of memories."