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Armory offers vacation week activities

SPRINGFIELD — It will soon be school vacation week. If your kids don't know what to do with themselves, bring them to the Springfield Armory National Historic Site between Feb. 20 to 27 to sample some great experiences. They can become a Civil War armory worker by learning to make lock plates or roll paper cartridges, or dress up as a World War II Woman Ordnance Worker (WOW) by wearing a replica of the famous WOW bandanna. They can also become a junior. park ranger by completing a museum search, creating a life- saving gun or putting together an armory puzzle. Claim the prize of a Springfield Armory souvenir badge and bookmark before leaving. Activities are ongoing throughout each day and are free. Celebrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 204th birthday party on Feb. 23 — snow date Feb. 24 — with cake and balloons. Discover how his visit with his wife, Fanny, in 1843 inspired the famous peace poem, "The Arsenal at Springfield." Rob Velella, a literary historian and playwright, will portray Longfellow in 1840's period dress and organize the children into a poetry-writing workshop. In honor of Black History Month, Velella will introduce Longfellow's anti-slavery poems, as well as "The Arsenal at Springfield." Presentations will be at 10:30 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m., with poetry writing to follow each 30 minute presentation. All programs are free. Commenting about the children's activity he designed, Velella said, "This poetry workshop will help children appreciate and understand both meaning and structure in poetry. For further interactive activity, as Longfellow, I will bring samples of Longfellow's own books and allow audiences to handle 'props,' such as Longfellow's walking stick and top hat." Velella specializes in American literature of the 19th century, has published articles and presented academic papers on Margaret Fuller, Rufus Griswold, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. He has dramatically brought to life several literary figures, including Edgar A. Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Velella maintains the American Literary Blog at www.american-literacyblog.blogspot.com. Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates and preserves the site of the nation's first armory, established in 1794. Managed together with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and the National Park Service, the site includes many layers of history within its buildings and grounds. The site of the repulse of Shays' Rebellion, 1787; production of the nation's first interchangeable parts; and home of the world's largest historic American military firearms collection, it offers visitors the opportunity to share in its history and beauty. As a unit of the National Park Service, the visitor center, museum, buildings and grounds are open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is free. To browse the Armory's Web site, go to www.nps.gov/spar. Individuals may also call 734-8551 for more information.

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