If history teaches us anything, it’s that plenty of people on Shelter Island love it.
That’s why the Historical Society’s annual “One Day in History,” put on with the help of 100 volunteers, attracted nearly 400 people last year and promises to enthrall at least that many again this year on Saturday, August 2.
This popular event was the brainchild of Society Archivist and Trustee Phyllis Wallace, who came up with the idea back in the mid-1970s as a way to make history more accessible and fun. People like to see things and feel them, she said, so why not try to make that happen by “capturing a day in history” and recreating it in the present? Her idea has become a summer tradition here, with tourists making a special trip to the Island to attend along with misplaced Islanders planning their summer visits “home” around the date.
“One Day in History has become our signature event,” said Nanette Lawrenson, executive director of the Historical Society.
There have been various “historical” themes through the decades — nautical one year, 1920s another time — but the most popular and enduring theme is the recreation of daily life in the 18th century, especially with the help of members of the 3rd New York Regiment, re-enactors who plan to set up an encampment on Friday, August 1.
The public is invited to stop by on Friday and catch a preview look at the re-enactors who represent elements of all the armies involved in the Revolution: Continental, Militia, British, Loyalist, German, French, Spanish and Native American forces, plus civilian men, women and children, as they set up their tents and prepare meals.
Andrew McClain, the brigade’s organizer, said the members were happy to participate in One Day in History. “We are very excited to be back … and I expect a good turnout,” he wrote in a recent email, which included some planned demonstrations.
Visitors to One Day in History can expect to witness “the drilling of the troops on the manual of arms of 1764, cooking demonstration over an open fire, quill and ink writing, a fashion show by soldiers and camp followers,” and much more, as the re-enactors bring history to life before our eyes with no need to reboot, upload or recharge.
The Historical Society’s Sarah Shepherd will be on hand to explain the uses of colonial herbs and an apothecary shop will be set up inside the Havens House Barn, along with a Time Travelers exhibit and the handiwork of trustee Belle Lareau who will demonstrate rug braiding.
Town criers are not always easy to come by, but this year, Historical Society trustee and former Fire Department Chief John D’Amato has agreed to wear that hat and ring that bell, announcing various activities and events, which will include tractor pulled hayrides and a chance to take a spin in a Model T.
Going going gone!
Jean Dickerson, co-chair of this year’s event has been part of One Day in History in different capacities. Some years she organized it and, like this year, co-chaired, but she is most closely identified as the person who manages to round up — with a little help from her friends — more than 40 items displayed throughout the day, then auctioned off as the popular finale of the event. Anyone who attended last year remembers the excited whoops! from the boys who won the beautiful yellow kayak. Once again this year, Anderson Plumbing has generously donated a kayak and paddle for the auction. Also up for grabs are more than 40 others items donated by Islanders and Island and East End businesses that range from services, paintings, photographs, restaurant gift certificates, rounds of golf (mini and maxi) to a giant plush giraffe. In addition, Jack Reardon of Shelter Island High School has donated a hand-crafted Adirondack chair complete with ottoman created by his students.
Calling all foodies
Reporter food columnist and feature writer Charity Robey is the chairman of the bake sale and has reached out to dozens of the Island’s finest bakers to create their specialties for the bake sale table. Cookies, brownies, pies, cupcakes and other sweets will be available for sale, along with a veritable smorgasbord of savory delicacies. And if it’s lunch you’re after, you can nosh on a hot dog while you sip a soda in the shaded dining area.
For the kids
One of the most popular activities of the event for both young and old, is interacting with the animals brought to the Island by Lollipop Barnyard Friends and the petting zoo will be back again this year. Again, crafts for kids will be provided by Phyllis and Bernie Gillespie. Last August the kids created “animal” crafts, but for this year’s theme, here’s a hint: think transportation. That’s the only hint. As in the past, Stephanie Lebowitz will set up a craft station in the Barn so the kids can get creative with her, too. And if they’ve got energy to spare, Karen Brush is in charge of “of the era” games the kids can engage in, including sack races. Prizes will be awarded.
Something for everyone
The cost — $10 for adults and $5 for children four through 12 — helps defray the cost of bringing the re-enactors and some of the exhibitors to the Island. Any proceeds go to support Historical Society programs.
Last year’s chairman, Janet D’Amato, said, “the Historical Society doesn’t look at One Day in History as a fundraiser. It’s a community event.” Jean Dickerson agrees. “That’s why it’s so special. It’s for young, it’s for old, it’s for everybody,” she said.
One Day in History is Saturday, August 2 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the Historical Society Havens House grounds on Route 114.