Sunday, October 12, 2003

Things may get messy - and fun - for kids

In Sawyertown, children can find
history close-up and hands-on

By Linnea Eschenlohr
Enquirer contributor

Children will be able to assemble this collection of wooden pieces into a Tall Stacks replica.
Justin Green will portray a period sign painter, displaying his craft to kids during Tall Stacks.
Parents who take their children to Tall Stacks should be prepared for a little messiness.

"Kids can and probably will get wet," says Tall Stacks education coordinator Carol Tyler. "They're going to play!"

A good part of that playing will include hands-on projects, such as making quilts or constructing boats, participating in old-fashioned games such as sack races and tug-of-war and watching costumed interpreters portraying everyone from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Abe Lincoln.

The getting wet part comes when the kids try some old-fashioned fishing. "Since Huck Finn used to catch fish by his hands, I'm going to have some fish for the kids to try and catch that way," Tyler says.

This year, Sawyertown - Tall Stacks' area for school-aged kids - has been expanded to include 10 hands-on learning centers. It promises a complete 19th-century riverfront experience.

Here's how Sawyertown works: You walk from one station to the next, stopping when something interests your child. For games and other hands-on activities, kids will be divided by age.

Here's a rundown of the 10 Sawyertown stations and what you can expect to find at each one.

What: Sawyertown, 10 interactive stations filled with kid-pleasing activities

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during Tall Stacks

Where: Bicentennial Commons

Admission: Children 12 and under are free; adults must have the General Admission Pin, which is on sale at Kroger stores for $12 and provides event access all five days.

More info:

'Along Jordan's Path'

One of the most anticipated portions of Sawyertown is "Along Jordan's Path," where storytellers relate what it was like to be an African-American during the steamboat era. They will tell young listeners about slaves' roles in building, working on and escaping via the steamboat.

Focusing on the Underground Railroad, "Along Jordan's Path," will be interpreted by the Freedom Train Storytellers, an Indianapolis storytelling troupe.

The name "Along Jordan's Path" refers to the Ohio River symbolically representing the biblical "River Jordan," which fugitive slaves knew that if they successfully crossed, they would be free.

"Along Jordan's Path" is a collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, scheduled to open next year.

Packet Bow Row

Miniature riverboats, steamboat whistles, and some boats created by the kids at Rockdale Academy will be displayed here. But the big attraction will be a boat building competition.

"Just like the competition of the steamboat races, we're going to have kids race against each other to see who can build a boat the fastest," Tyler says.

Using basic wooden shapes, each child will be shown how to construct a boat, then the race is on.

"We're going to have a PT Barnum- type (circus) character encouraging the kids who will make the competition a lot of fun," Tyler says.

Tom & Becky's Playland

Before Gameboy, Pokemon and Barbie, kids played leap frog and hopscotch. Now it's your child's turn to experience the joy of sack races, string games, tug-of-war and wooden hoop races. Game playing will be continuous.

"We will emphasize the fun things kids were doing during that time," Tyler says.

The Ohio River, Naturally

A huge 2,000-gallon fish tank featuring Ohio River life below the water line will be the main attraction here.

There will be a display of the river's locks and dams and hands-on activities. The "fishing" (or fish-catching) will take place here. Kids also will learn how buttons were made from shells and have the chance to make their own button spinner.

The Early Place

"This station will be an homage that's going to be paid to the Wyandot tribe," says Tyler.

Brought to Cincinnati's public landing on two steamboats - the Nodaway and Republic - on their way to Kansas, the Wyandots were the last American Indian tribe to leave Ohio.

"We're going to tell their story," Tyler explains.

A first person interpretation by the Rev. James Wheeler, who accompanied the tribe, will detail the sometimes sorrowful journey of the tribe, which still lives in Oklahoma and Kansas.

American Indian storytellers and flautists will perform and children will have an opportunity to create feathers with greetings to be sent to the current Wyandot chiefs.

Greater Cincinnati Foundation Stage

Historical dances, plays and skits centered around themes of 19th century life, the river and slavery will be performed daily on this stage.

"Seven Quilts for Seven Sisters," is a 45-minute performance featuring original dance, stories, skits and quilt-making by seven African-American women who tell the story of the joys of sisterhood and the trials of slave life and how quilting helped them cope.

Other entertainment will include historical dances by the "Forget Me Not" dance troupe, an original skit based on the book, Steamboat in a Cornfield by John Hartford (Random House, 1986; out of print) and daily performances by the School for Creative and Performing Arts of their "Showboat Suite Ballet."

Heritage House

This station will show 19th century women's roles in home and civic life.

"We will have a display of what it was like for a woman to get dressed in the 19th century," says Tyler. "You will be able to see 30 feet of what a woman would have to wear - everything from bloomers and slips to outer garments," she explains.

Kids will be able to wash clothes on an old-fashioned washboard (more getting wet!), make soap bubbles, and see how thread was made.

More first person interpretation will include around-the-kitchen table conversations with women leaders such as Harriet Tubman and Sister Anthony.

McGuffey's Circle

A re-enactment of a classroom will feature "Mistress Small" as the schoolmarm presiding over her class, filled with students from School for Creative and Performing Arts dressed and acting as their 19th century counterparts.

Kids also will have a chance to take part in an interactive literature exhibit featuring famous Cincinnatians and make steamboat hats from newspapers.

Bicentennial Arts Gallery

This living, interactive timeline of the fine arts in Cincinnati will feature dance, musical performances and visual arts.

Trader's Village

What did people do for a living in the 19th century?

The broom, sign and brick maker will all be there, demonstrating their craft and offering hands-on experiences to the kids.

Composer Stephen Foster will be wandering around trying to find what rhymes with "Susannah," and Abe Lincoln will be on hand to discuss his role in government.

Kids also will get to see a fire bucket brigade in action, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Cincinnati Fire Department.