Travel back in time with Greencastle-Antrim students at the Cumberland Life Festival

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Fresh from a Civil War battlefield, a wounded soldier was draped over a table and a doctor prepared to operate. It didn't go well. The patient died, bystanders screamed and in the background, a band played "Taps."

The re-enacted scene was popular with participants and visitors alike at the annual Cumberland Life Festival presented Tuesday by Greencastle-Antrim Middle School eighth-graders at Tayamentasachta, the school district's environmental center.

This group presented information on Civil War spies, ranging from Allan Pinkerton to Harriet Tubman, at the Cumberland Life Festival.

In the decades-old tradition, the students started working in March, researched a trade, hobby or lifestyle from the 19th century, wrote a research paper, boiled it down to notecards and brought their topic to life.

The festival was not held in 2020 because schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 event featured some related modifications, including no samples of homemade apple dumplings, pretzels or potato chips and no square dancing.

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'Rite of passage'

Regardless, social studies teacher Megan Long said, "It feels pretty remarkable to allow students to do this rite of passage in a year when most things were not normal."

She spearheaded the festival with fellow social studies teacher Shane Marville, but all other eighth-grade teachers are involved in the festival, which also is supported by administrators, maintenance and Kerri Barnes, environmental center director.

"The kids are doing a fabulous job, it's good to see them out here," Barnes said.

"We are so glad to be able to do this," said language arts teacher Sheila Keller.

Blacksmithing was demonstrated at the Cumberland Life Festival by, from left, Jayden Pine, Austin Martin and Gavin Bowers.

Because of COVID-19, only middle school students visited the festival, which is normally open to the elementary and primary schools, too.

Back in time

The students who were able to attend listened closely at the 30 different stations ranging from Civil War spies and the Underground Railroad to farm animals, trapping, candle-making and calligraphy.

They crowded into the doorway of the blacksmith shop where Jayden Pine, Gavin Bowers and Austin Martin heated metal rods in the fire and used a hammer to shape them on the anvil under the guidance of Karl Bacon.

Bacon, a 2008 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School, was introduced to blacksmithing at his Cumberland Life Festival, and has continued it as a hobby and volunteered to help out on Tuesday.

"This is fun!" he exclaimed.

Nick Reed, left, and Hunter Shover cooked beef stew over the fire for the Cumberland Life Festival kettle cooking demonstration.

Things also were a little hot and smoky around the kettle cooking demonstration.

"We like food," said Nick Reed.

He, Hunter Shover, Joel Amstutz and Carmella Poper took turns using a long wooden spoon to stir the cast iron kettle over the fire. They cooked beef stew with potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, parsley and peppercorns.

Carmella Poper ordered her old-fashioned Cumberland Life Festival outfit off Amazon. Her mask was made from the bonnet that came with the dress.

"I'm looking forward to tasting it," said Carmella.

Most boys at the festival wore plaid shirts, and the girls sported old-fashioned dresses. The school has a stash of outfits, but many students like to get their own clothes, Long said.

Carmella wore a green dress with flowers and matching face mask. A friend of her mother's made the mask from the bonnet that came with the outfit, which Carmella ordered off Amazon.

A lot of her peers also turned to Amazon, and Carmella said she saw other girls wearing the same dress in different colors.

Cam Niland, Neil Rayarao, Meadow Gambacurta and Makayla Oberholzer used an iPad to take old-time photos at this Cumberland Life Festival display.

Amazon wasn't the only modern feature in the 19th century presentations. Visitors to the photography station could put their faces in cutouts on a board painted with old-fashioned attire, but their pictures were snapped with an iPad. The photos will be made to look old-fashioned with a black and white filter.