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Special Programs in Two Parks Relive Holidays on the Frontier and in the Backcountry

Dulcimer lessons as last year's "Backcountry Holiday

Dulcimer lessons as last year's "Backcountry Holiday" at Ninety Six National Historic Site. NPS photo.

What are you doing the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Two NPS areas offer a chance to skip the mall and experience the holiday season on the frontier and in the backcountry through special programs. These "frontier" and "backcountry" sites are in locations that might surprise you: South Carolina and New York.

At the time of the American Revolution much of South Carolina was still "backcountry," and that includes the area now part of Ninety Six National Historic Site. Located within about an hour's drive of Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, the park includes

the original 1781 Star Fort, Historic roads like the Cherokee Path and Charleston Road, the original town sites of Ninety Six & Cambridge, the reconstructed Stockade Fort & siege trenches, and a historic cabin we have set up as the Black Swan Tavern.

Here settlers struggled against the harsh backcountry to survive, Cherokee Indians hunted and fought to keep their land, two towns and a trading post were formed and abandoned to the elements, and two Revolutionary War battles that claimed over 100 lives took place.

That's a lot of history in one location, and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 28, the park will offer you a chance to participate in “A Backcountry Holiday.”

Take a break from turkey, football games, and shopping malls to enjoy light refreshments in the park’s historic cabin, which is only open to the public during special events. Relax by the fire and listen to Colonial Holiday music played on the hammered dulcimer. Visit the Park’s Visitor Center for unique gifts. Children can take part in Colonial games and decorate star ornaments to take home.

The past will come to life as you walk into the historic Logan Log Cabin, where costumed interpreters will be demonstrating backcountry life in the 1700s.

You'll find driving directions and other information to help you plan a visit on the park website.

Central New York State was also on the frontier in 1777, and Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, New York, preserves part of that history.

Known as "the fort that never surrendered," Fort Stanwix ... successfully repelled a prolonged siege in August 1777 by British, German, Loyalist, Canadian, and American Indian troops and warriors …. The failed siege, combined with the battles at Oriskany, Bennington, and Saratoga thwarted a coordinated effort by the British … to take the northern colonies, and led to American alliances with France and the Netherlands.

The park is offering a special program on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to help you understand those early years at the Fort.

On the frontier of New York in 1777, the soldiers and officers of the 3rd NY regiment and Savage's Detachment of Artillery sought to bring a touch of home to the isolated outpost. During the holiday season, they may have used decorations and other traditional customs reflecting their cultural diversity to make the fort seem a bit more like a home.

On Saturday evening, November 28, 2009, Fort Stanwix National Monument invites you to discover what life might have been like during the holiday season for the soldiers and families of the fort.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., explore the fort by candlelight and discover the origins of many of the customs and traditions that we still have today. Activities such as caroling and a special children's walking tour bring the past to life as you learn how the yuletide season was observed in the late 1700's.

The children's walking tour booklets, as well as other reading materials about the holiday season during the American Revolution may be picked up at either the Willett Center or the Gregg Barracks. After they have been completed, the activity booklets can be taken to the Gregg Barracks for a special prize.

"The program also gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the men and women serving in the military today," says Park Ranger Valerie Morgan. "From home and around the world there are families, friends and grateful people, and service men and women, doing what they can to bring a bit of home to far-off places."

The park website includes directions to the park, hours of operation, and other information to help you plan a visit.

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