Step back in time at 18th Century Market Fair

1st Delaware Regiment commander Chris Mlynarczyk of Newark, right, tries to form a ragtag group of youngsters into a fighting force during last year’s First State Heritage Park 18th Century Market Fair. This year’s event is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on The Green in Dover. (Delaware State News file photo)

1st Delaware Regiment commander Chris Mlynarczyk of Newark, right, tries to form a ragtag group of youngsters into a fighting force during last year’s First State Heritage Park 18th Century Market Fair. This year’s event is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on The Green in Dover. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — The Dover Green is now part of the First State National Historical Park but in the 1700s it was the center of life in Dover and the site of annual autumn market fairs.

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on The Green, the First State Heritage Park 18th Century Market Fair recreates the sights and sounds of these eagerly anticipated events, and allows visitors to leave the 21st century behind for a few hours.

“It’s hard to believe, but this is the seventh year for the Market Fair on The Green in Dover,” said Heritage Park Superintendent Sarah Zimmerman, “and each year more and more people have attended as word has spread of what a fun, free event this is for all ages.”

In past years, almost 5,000 visitors chatted with living history characters, watched traditional artisans at work, and enjoyed comical interactive performances — all with an 18th-century twist.

Two favorite performers returning this year are “Timothy the Weaver” and “Signora Bella, the Great Italian Equilibrist.” Timothy the 18th-century Irish Linen Worker, turns ordinary-looking flax straw into very serviceable linen products. A delightful, informative running commentary during the continuous demonstration provides the human touch to these nearly forgotten skills.

Signora Bella brings to life the tradition of the traveling performer of the 1700s as she juggles knives and flaming torches, while balancing on a rope and a giant ball.

New for this year will be Levram The Great, a colonial conjuror featured inside the Schwartz Center for the Arts. He claims to have traveled the world where he has performed for heads of state (as well as their feet)! This show is fast enough for 21st century audiences but immerses guests in the 18th century. Volunteers will be chosen to assist Levram on stage, and the audience is encouraged to participate — loudly.

Returning by popular demand will be “Dr. Balthasar and his Marvelous Miracle Medicine Show.” Dr. Balthasar offers audiences a “magical miracle medicine that cures everything from a common cold to death of two weeks’ standing” as he engages audience members in his performance.

“One important part of Market Fair, besides pure entertainment, is a chance to watch traditional craftspeople at work,” said Ms. Zimmerman. “Many people, especially children, have never had an opportunity to experience this.”

Last year’s popular artisans returning this year include Mike Radebach demonstrating traditional blacksmithing techniques all day long, and Rick Shuman, demonstrating how to use a spring pole lathe to young and old as well as offering his wares for sale. Leather working, spinning, and silhouette making are also among the trades visitors can see.

New this year is the Lewes Historical Society. They have done extensive research and will be presenting about everyone’s favorite treat — chocolate! Visitors can view a demonstration of the 18th century chocolate making process and literally “taste the past.”

Another new addition to the Market Fair is Paul Gasparo. He will be demonstrating the art of leather working. A recognized expert in early American glassblowing and a purist, Knightengale’s Rest presents glassblowing as a trade as well as other sundry items. Learn about the tricks and techniques for making reproduction 17th and 18th century glassware and perhaps purchase some wares.

Children can enjoy the many hands-on activities — engage in a military muster with the 1st Delaware Regiment or visit the free photo booth where visitors can have their picture taken with fun props from the colonial era to create their Market Fair memories. Children will also have the opportunity to make slate buttons just like they did in the 18th century.

To add to the historic atmosphere, fiddler Rick Hudson will be wandering The Green as the Market Fair Minstrel playing his merry tunes. The English Country Dancers will be both demonstrating and encouraging people to participate.

Modern-day photographers can join in the competition to capture the best pictures of the Fifth Annual Market Fair in the Market Fair Photo contest. Winners in both categories — Fan Favorite and Reader’s Choice — will win a 2017 Delaware State Parks Pass and the chance to be used in promotional material for Market Fair 2017.

The Dover Century Club will be turned into the Market Fair Inn where fair-goers can buy a tasty lunch of pulled pork or chicken sandwiches and other delights, with profits benefiting the Century Club’s Building and Scholarship Fund. Old World Breads from Lewes will be offering sweet treats for sale including their famous shortbread and molasses cookies for the first time this year.

Dover Trivia Game

The Dover Trivia Game makes its debut at the 18th Century Market Fair on Saturday.

The Friends of Old Dover, a nonprofit, historic preservation organization since 1933, focusing on Dover, Delaware’s historic and architectural heritage, has produced a trivia game to celebrate Dover’s 300th anniversary.

The scope of the game encompasses Dover’s city limits from 1717 to the present. Local civic minded businesses and individuals have generously contributed to this fun and informative game.

To learn more about the Friends of Old Dover, contact us at info@friendsofolddover.org or on Facebook. The website is www.friendsofolddover.org

The game will be available at The Delaware Store, located at 325 S. State St., or through the Friends of Old Dover.

For questions, call The Delaware Store at 302 674-1787.

Admission to Market Fair is free, with refreshments and handcrafted items available for purchase. The event is rain or shine and will move to indoor locations around The Green in the event of inclement weather. Information about all the demonstrators and entertainers appearing at Market Fair can be found at www.destateparks.com/marketfair.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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