September 11, 2021

Dressing Up for the Belvidere Heritage Festival

This Saturday afternoon, I had the delightful opportunity to attend the Belvidere Heritage Day festival. It was my first time meandering around a fair while dressed in Victorian attire from head to toe. My companions were also beautifully dressed in Victorian apparel including my museum director, Tara Howanice, and my costumist, Dianna Filan (didn't she do a remarkable job with my dress?)! My connection with them is based on our mutual membership at the Jefferson Township Historical Society; we volunteer at the George Chamberlain House on Dover Milton Rd. It's worth mentioning that our museum's next open house is tomorrow from 1-4 pm if you would like to get a glimpse into Victorian life!

My favorite parts of the festival included petting the goats and alpaca at the petting zoo, listening to the Stone Soup Symphony play "America the Beautiful" and "Climb Every Mountain", and interacting with friendly strangers dressed from different eras in history. The symphony's performance of the patriotic and well-known composition "America the Beautiful" was particularly poignant to listen to with the knowledge that it was the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11. 

My companions and I were not the only ones who looked as if we had stepped out of the Victorian Era and into Garret D. Wall Park, but that did not mean we didn't stand out from the general crowd. Many spectators asked if they could take a picture of us, including a couple of young girls who had the boldness to approach us and compliment our dresses; one of them even said we looked like princesses which was very flattering. ☺️

One reason I adore festivals is the kind of people they attract who are eager to share their certain talents and/or eccentric hobbies with the world. For instance, there was one moment where a unicyclist whizzed past my group. It was entertaining to see him riding around the park, showing off his unique skill. There was also an animated fellow who was showcasing his 19th century wet-plate camera which caught my intrigue. When I asked how he develops his pictures, he was eager to explain the wet-plate process and I enjoyed his enthusiastic spirit. When people are passionate about what they do for fun, it will naturally inspire others to better admire their interests and hobbies.

The weather was more than agreeable for the festival, a relatively cool temperature of 70 degrees F which was the perfect temperature for walking around in many layers of Victorian attire if you ask me. After a walk around the vendors' tents, my companions and I enjoyed our packed lunches on a lone picnic table in the center of the park. It was refreshing to rest and observe the buzz of unhurried society all around us. 

I couldn't properly leave the festival without taking a few souvenirs with me. I bought a couple lavender-scented bath products from Orchard View Lavender Farm; the ladies working there joked that I should stay and work alongside them since my dress perfectly matched their tent's interior. I also bought a "Presidential Hall of Fame" coin board featuring golden coins engraved with the faces of the first 36 presidents of the United States. I figured that buying it would help me with my efforts to better memorize the early presidents, and in the correct order too. My last souvenir was a free informational article about "The Wet-Plate Collodion Process", given to me by the photographer I previously mentioned. 

I want to say a special thank-you to Dianna Filan for designing my dress and to the Jefferson Township Historical Society for organizing our trip. I hope that sharing these snapshots of my visit to Belvidere Heritage will inspire you to find local festivals nearby so you may enjoy their lovely aspects of community, live music and historic reenactment as well!



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