The Old Fort is coming to life to celebrate the Christmas season Saturday as a part of the Holly Trolley downtown shopping event.
“We are offering artisan wares to shoppers,” said coordinator Laura Gable. Iron work, hand-knit woolens, wooden utensils and toys, basketry, silver jewelry, and honey and beeswax soaps, lotions and candles are just a few of the items that will fill the interior rooms of the historic fort, 1201 Spy Run Ave.
Visitors with children will be invited to participate in period activities, such as the game of graces, Jacob's ladder, the monkey game and donuts on a string. A free, make-your-own-ornament craft will also be open for visiting crafters. Singing, guitar music and hospitality will be offered to all.
This is the second year the Fort will be open for its Christmas at the Old Fort event. Last year, the Fort's Christmas celebration was simply an open house. This year, the Fort is working with the Downtown Improvement District and the Holly Trolley to create a shopping experience set in history.
Laura Gable and her co-coordinator, Joyce Lundy, have been planning the event. “It was Lundy's idea to bring in specific wares the public would be interested in,” explained Gable.
The staff at the Fort will be composed entirely of historical re-enactor volunteers. About half of the volunteers will be from the Historic Fort Wayne unit: the rest of the volunteers will be from the “extended rendezvous group,” which includes people from Muncie, Peru, Huntington and other area Indiana communities.
“History is important to the people who participate in these crafts,” said Gable. “They want to share that and participate in (making history come alive through handcrafts). They are lovers of history.”
By selling the items that they have crafted, the re-enactors are maintaining the legacy of their favorite historical traditions.
Under its current, volunteer-driven management, the Old Fort serves a variety of historical periods and events.
“It's just a wonderful backdrop… that can offer some flexibility in how we want to portray a certain part of time,” Gable explained. This Christmas event will highlight life from the years 1750-1812.
All buildings within the Fort will be open for visitor shopping and exploration. Outlying buildings, such as the bakery, blacksmith shop and visitor's center, will be closed.
“Because it's late in the year, we aren't demonstrating proper,” meaning that outdoor demonstrations will be at a minimum, said Gable. She explained that water has been shut off to the Fort so pipes will not freeze during the winter. A lack of water makes crafts like blacksmithing difficult. However, every fireplace in the fort will be lit, providing warmth and light for volunteers and visitors.
The Holly Trolley will be stopping every 15 minutes near the Old Fort, and a greeter will meet all visitors coming off the trolley. Visitors are encouraged to use the Rivergreenway walk, which goes under Spy Run, to reach the Fort. Parking is open in the lot south of Marschand's Optical, on Fourth Street between Spy Run Avenue and Clinton Street, or at Headwaters Park across the river from the Fort. The Holly Trolley will run from 11a.m. to 5 p.m., but the Fort will be open until 6 p.m.