Sixth annual Harmon Field Heritage Days March 20 to 23Published 6:00pm Sunday, March 16, 2014
During the Civil War, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee gave many troops to the South, as well as to the North. Polk County gave six to the original Second NC Mounted Infantry and almost 2,000 came from up and down the mountains to the two original Union regiments that formed in this region. Although no recorded battles were fought here, there is evidence that a troop stayed in the area of Harmon Field during the Civil War as they passed through to Asheville.
One way to learn more about what life was like in Polk County during the Civil War is to attend the family festivities at the sixth annual Harmon Field Heritage Days on March 20 through March 23.
The heritage festival started nine years ago by Polk County resident Lorna Dever. She was inspired as she watched Civil War re-enactor Captain David Smith and the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry practice their maneuvers. Dever approached George Alley, who was the park supervisor at the time, about holding a festival to celebrate Polk County’s heritage at Harmon Field.
“We discussed the idea of inviting schools for a free field trip to a Civil War setting in Harmon Field and having Tryon Arts and Crafts (TAC) help us with the educational days on Thursday and Friday and an open house on Saturday,” says Dever.
The first festival got off to a great start. About 400 students from Tryon Elementary came to the event on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, well over 100 people came and, the following year, over 900 students came to the educational days on Thursday and Friday.
Saluda Elementary School fifth grade teacher Ginger Rackley has taken her students to heritage days several different years. She says her students gain a better understanding of life during the Civil War as they learn about the War in school.
“This event provides a visual for the students as they see what life was like in a Civil War camp,” says Rackley.
Each year, they try to offer something new and exciting, like a Saturday evening supper with the troops that is open to the public for a suggested donation for those who are not in period attire of $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 – 13.
“We have tried various things over the years, but nothing seemed to really take a big hold on people until we had President Lincoln at the event last year. He was a big hit and people enjoyed having him at the event.”
The Abraham Lincoln Impressionist, Chaplain Chet Damron has performed as the president for 39 years and was voted ‘Best Abraham Lincoln Look-Alike’ at the annual ‘Abraham Lincoln Days’ in Hodgenville, Ky.
Kellie Bradley, the fifth grade teacher at Sunny View Elementary says, “I have been bringing fifth grade classes to Harmon Field Heritage Days for several years now and each year does get bigger and better. Last year was exceptional with the addition of the Abraham Lincoln impersonator. Chaplain Chester H. Damron pulled you into that time period describing stories and anecdotes about Lincoln.”
Damron will be returning for all four days of this year’s event along with the reenactment by the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry and other units from the carolinas, headed by Smith, who has been doing Civil War enactments for 22 years.
The artillery will demonstrate how to safely load and fire a cannon; the cavalry will show what a typical horse would look like as it carried the troopers’ weapons and gear; and an infantry camp will demonstrate what the foot soldiers did.
“We try to educate the different levels of children about what a typical Civil War encampment would be like,” says Smith. “We usually have Union and Confederate troops at the event and they perform a small skit for the children where one side attacks and the other side responds.”
TAC will have an open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with demonstrations of crafts similar to what they do during education days. They have storytellers, Marilyn McMinn McCredie and Anna Pack Conner available for telling stories about life in Polk County during the Civil War era.
In addition to TAC offerings, Joanne Alderman, with Knitters Nest, and some of her friends will be having crafts on display and for sale on Saturday and Sunday.
Grades first through eighth from Polk County public schools, private, and home schools are invited to participate for free on the educational days on Thursday and Friday. They need to contact Dever as soon as possible to reserve their place.
For more information about Harmon Field Heritage Days, visit serendipityrancher.com/hfheritagedays.html. or call 828-817-1544.