WEST SPARTA – Nothing says a good country festival like baby animals, antique tractors, classic cars, war reenactors, and wagon rides.
The West Sparta Old Fashioned Days held a good time for the community on July 28. There were many local vendors, Country Corner Store, West Sparta Fire Department, and much more.
A 140th NY Reenactor, Devon Southall, of Buffalo said that she comes to this event every year with her children.
“My dad used to do this with his second family,” she said. “I always thought it would be a lot of fun with kids. I come to this event every year.”
The 1860s vibe resonated in the festival as many reenactors were portraying the Civil War era. Southall portrayed the games the soldiers, women, and children would play. Even the toys children could play on the Sabbath.
“This area was very Christian in those days, and there were huge revivals all over Western New York,” she said. “The children had special toys they could only play on the Sabbath. There was even a law in place in Ohio that said it was illegal to play marbles on the Sabbath.”
This all stems from the fact that the whole family would work six days a week on the farms, so the Holy Day was taken seriously as a day to rest, Southall mentioned.
A 1st NY Vol. Engineers Co. F. Reenactor, Alex Johnson, of Fairport portrays his ancestor, Henry Siegrist, in his Civil War era Tool Depot.
Johnson has been reenacting since 1992, and grew up focusing on the Civil War era.
“I grew up in the centennial of the Civil War, and my family drove around a lot in the summer exploring the old battlefields. In Boy Scouts I found out I had a relative in the Civil War. He was a carpenter from Germany who put in three years,” he said. “I joined a reenactor group, but I was the only NYer in the group. After that I joined the 140th NY Group. I was the pioneer in Infantry Engineering.”
Johnson is now part of the 1st NY Vol. Engineers Co. F. Group and offers some insight into the tools used in the day. He also shows the nine steps in using a Civil War rifle, which a good soldier could shoot off three rounds a minute.
Johnson also keeps things authentic by writing in a journal and making sketches as he is awaiting battle.
“You can have things from the past, but nothing from the future when you are recreating a certain era,” Johnson explained. “I have Revolutionary War playing cards, because these would’ve been grandpas cards in the Civil War. They still would’ve been using them 100 years later.”
Johnson added the reenactors are not about glorifying war, but about keeping the stories alive of that time period.
“This isn’t about glorifying war. This was a great time period, and all the veterans of that war are long gone now. This was a changing point in our history,” he said. “They fought to end slavery, and some fought to keep slavery. Maryland still allowed slavery until 1863. The border states were still in bondage in 1840. Abe Lincoln thought he could end slavery when he came on board.”
Johnson is a retired teacher, so he loves the living history. He talks about it every chance he can get at these festivals.
Stanley “Stosh” Kawczynski known as “The Seeker” has done the Native American side of reenacting for about 25 years now.
“I am a storyteller, and I like to talk to people about animals in a safe place,” he said. “I teach them about all the animals, and warn the children not to touch them in the wild. I have foxes, coyotes, bears, skunks, raccoons, rabbits. I wear the deer hide, and talk about the importance of making clothes out of animals skins. I tell them about medicine bags, turtle bags, and a knife bag.”
Kawczynski keeps in the theme of whatever festival he attends with his famous Pappy Ice Cream Truck.