Pioneer Days festival brings past to life for museum visitors

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

The sharp scent of wood smoke fills the air as a Confederate solider kneels to stoke a small cooking fire. On a rack above the flames, a cast-iron skillet sizzles, and soon the soldier rises with a plate of fresh, hot — doughnuts?

Doughnuts would have been a luxury to an actual Confederate soldier, said historical reenactor Steve Lowery, but the method he used for cooking them was accurate. Lowery and his fellow reenactors of the 15th Alabama Infantry were among several demonstrators who brought history to life for visitors to Pioneer Days at the Pinoeer Museum of Alabama on Saturday.

Bob McClendon, of the 15th Alabama Infantry, said he has been taking part in historical reenactments for more than 20 years.

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“It’s one of the best ways to get away from the stresses of jobs and everything else because you are living in 1863 or 1864,” Mclendon said.

Across the grounds of the Pioneer Museum, visitors to Pioneer Days got glimpses of daily life in Alabama during the 19th century — from woodworking to outdoor cooking to grinding corn in a grist mill.

Demonstrator Robert Parker, from Coosada, used an adze to shape a block of wood into a bowl while curious onlookers watched. With bright yellow shavings piling up at his feet, Parker said he took an interest in primitive woodworking as a hobby several years ago. Now, he travels to events like Pioneer Days to demonstrate the craft.

“I believe it is something anyone can do if you have patience,” he said.

Wayne Hubbard, scoutmaster for Troy’s Boy Scout Troop 41, said the troop participates in Pioneer Days by cooking a traditional meal over a fire.

Hubbard said he enjoys passing on the lesson of the past to a new generation.

“The kick I get out of it is introducing kids to the way things used to be done,” he said. “It gives them a chance to experience history first-hand.”

The Pioneer Days festival is a fall tradition for the museum. Other demonstrations on Saturday included spinning, weaving and quilting in the museum’s main building, a Native American Camp, Civil War and War of 1812 reenactors and a Wild West show.