STURBRIDGE Keep the kids busy during February school vacation week at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) with a mix of invigorating outdoor fun and cozy indoor activities and hands-on crafts.
Visitors can enjoy a winter scavenger hunt, sleigh rides, ice skating (bring your skates), and sledding on 1830s-style reproduction sleds (all weather permitting). Indoor activities include candle-making, making a Washington cake and paper George Washington militia hat, marbling paper, and writing with a quill pen. Children can make and take a "thaumatrope" a 19th-century toy that fools the eye.
Everyone named "George" or "Martha" gets free admission to the Village during Presidents' Day Weekend, Feb. 18 to 20. Visitors can take part in traditional toasts to George Washington and other famous American Patriots, and learn more about the country's first president during presentations of "I Cannot Tell a Lie: Celebrating the Life and Accomplishments of George Washington in Story and Song."
Skirts will swirl on Feb. 19, as the OSV dancers present a Washington Birthday Ball. Beforehand, OSV historians will discuss 19th-century hairdressing techniques (including bear grease and sausage curls) in "Her Crowning Glory"; etiquette for the ball in "Please Take Hands"; and 1830s ball accessories in "Frills and Furbelows." Visitors can learn various dances of the time, including contra dances and cotillions, forerunners of today's line dancing and square dancing.
According to OSV historians, Washington's birthday was one of only a few holidays celebrated in 19th-century rural New England, and the man was elevated to mythic status by a young nation struggling to find a sense of unity. Washington became a larger-than-life figure who the entire nation could rally around, exemplifying all of the virtues that the citizens were coming to value.
Many of the well-known stories about Washington were not really true, including the famous tale of the cherry tree chopped down by Washington as a boy. This story was fabricated by the president's first biographer, Mason Locke Weems, an itinerant bookseller who had likely never even met Washington. In fact, nearly all of the anecdotes in the first edition of Weems' book about Washington were fictional, but the biography was wildly popular and future editions included even more made-up tales.
Washington was, however, one of the best athletes of his day, a physically imposing man of great strength and endurance. A fact not well known by his contemporaries is that he frequently fell ill. Instead, his biographers focused on the fact that Washington was never wounded during the Revolutionary War, though he had several near misses.
Admission to OSV is adults $24; seniors $20; children 3 to 17, $8; children younger than 3, free.
For times and details of all OSV activities, visit www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.
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