STURBRIDGE – Families flock to Old Sturbridge Village over Labor Day weekend to give a last salute to summer and enjoy an old-fashioned “Family Fun Days” celebration 1830s style.
Throughout the weekend, guests can ride in the Village stagecoach, take a boat ride on the Quinebaug River, and enjoy classic early 19th-century games such as tug-of-war (called French and English back then), “base ball” using an ax handle for a bat, hoop rolling and marbles, as well as fish in the Village millpond and enjoy a variety of “make-and-take” crafts. Highlights each day include musket firing demonstrations and the launch of a “toy fire balloon.”
Visitors can meet heritage breed oxen, cows, pigs and chickens, while the OSV historians and artisans demonstrate hearth cooking, pottery, blacksmithing and more. For more details, visit www.osv.org or call 800-SEE-1830 (800-733-1830).
“The immersive environment of the village – surrounded by the sights, sounds, animals, smells, and scenery of the past – sparks the imagination of kids and adults alike,” Emily Dunnack, director of Education at the village, said. “Stepping into the billage is as close as you can get to stepping back in time and how wonderful to do so with our 21st century minds. A visit to the village allows kids to make connections between the lives of children in the past and their own lives today. Family Fun Days will be full of activities: group games, hands-on crafts, animal activity, and farming demonstrations, but there are also plenty of opportunities for quiet exploration for visitors who prefer a slower pace. That’s what I think is so special about our village – there is so much for everyone!"
Playing old-time “base ball” at Old Sturbridge Village, visitors are surprised to learn that the bases were run clockwise – starting with what is now third base. And they learn that baseball was not invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. According to OSV historians, Americans were playing “base ball” at Valley Forge before Doubleday was even born. Children in early 19th-century America often played the game, which was also called “round ball,” “town ball,” “goal ball,” and “baste ball.” Its origins can be traced to the old English schoolboys’ game of “Rounders.”
During Family Fun Days, children may compete in the ever-popular “Farm Olympics,” where teams are pitted against one another to complete a farm task like building a fence or splitting rails.
Also during the weekend, the daily launch of a toy “fire balloon” on the Common is a tradition at Old Sturbridge Village. The world's first hot air balloon launch was in 1783, so the fascination with balloons was in full swing during the time period portrayed at the village. The balloon is constructed with tissue paper as it would have been in the early 1830s. In fact, directions for making and launching toy fire balloons were listed in books of the day, including “The Boy’s Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations” and The “American Boy’s Handy Book: What to do and how to do it.”