Experience history, hands-on, at American Heritage show in St. Charles

American Heritage Living History Show in St. Charles fills the gap between road shows

  • Chris Olsen of Aurora shines up a telescope he had on display at last year's American Heritage Living History Show. Olsen also does wet plate photography as it would have been done in the mid-19th century.

      Chris Olsen of Aurora shines up a telescope he had on display at last year's American Heritage Living History Show. Olsen also does wet plate photography as it would have been done in the mid-19th century. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • Gunsmith Gary Messer of Dixon, Illinois, holds one of the muskets he has built. Messer was one of many vendors at last year's American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

      Gunsmith Gary Messer of Dixon, Illinois, holds one of the muskets he has built. Messer was one of many vendors at last year's American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • Ryan, 6; Shane, 4; and William Sperling, 9, of Palatine; pan for gold a the Donley's Wild West Town booth at the American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

      Ryan, 6; Shane, 4; and William Sperling, 9, of Palatine; pan for gold a the Donley's Wild West Town booth at the American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • Steve Kelly of Worth, Illinois, talks with gunsmith Gary Messer of Dixon, Illinois, about his handmade guns during last year's American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds. The show is geared toward history buffs and off-season re-enactors.

      Steve Kelly of Worth, Illinois, talks with gunsmith Gary Messer of Dixon, Illinois, about his handmade guns during last year's American Heritage Living History Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds. The show is geared toward history buffs and off-season re-enactors. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • Susan Mueller of Boscobel, Wisconsin, makes a quilt using a period hand-cranked sewing machine at the American Heritage Living History Show.

      Susan Mueller of Boscobel, Wisconsin, makes a quilt using a period hand-cranked sewing machine at the American Heritage Living History Show. Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted1/17/2018 9:50 AM

American history buffs are going to want to stop by the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles this weekend.

The second annual American Heritage Living History Show takes place Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 20-21, at the fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, featuring 18th century and later craftsmen and women, merchants, demonstrators and artisans showing off their wares.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There has been a need for an indoor trade show," said Rebecca Fairchild, who runs the show with her husband, Jim. "There is a big gap between when we come off the road in October. Most of the road shows start in late February and early March. We needed to fill that gap."

The Fairchilds participate in around 20 living history shows a year from January to November, mainly throughout the Midwest, stretching from as far south as Kentucky to as far north as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

"It's about bringing history to the public," said Fairchild. "This is history kids won't read about in a history book. It's hands-on and it's more interesting."

Rebecca Fairchild's background is in fashion designing and merchandising, while her husband's is in residential construction. Jim Fairchild also makes canvas tents for living history fans.

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"We both have always loved history," she said. "I also do period clothing. I've been sewing my entire life. Our experiences have translated into this."

The Fairchilds, who live in Batavia, own Spring Valley Lodges, which manufactures tents, canvas items, stoves and custom historic clothing.

"Jim makes living history re-enactments," Rebecca Fairchild said. "We make the small canvases and clothing for the re-enactors. If they need bags or haversacks, or need a cover to put over a modern item such as a cooler, we do that type of work."

This weekend's show follows last year's inaugural success.

"We were really nervous last year," said Rebecca Fairchild. "We didn't know what to expect, but at 9 a.m., when we opened the doors, a lot of people came through the door. We wanted it to be a success and it was."

Fairchild said this year's event will feature more tables and vendors. "They can shop and ask a lot of questions," she said.

A variety of clubs, lodges and museums related to the craft will be on hand in search of new members, Fairchild said. An additional treat will be an appearance from Trevor Steinbach of the 17th Corp Field Hospital Civil War re-enactment unit (11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days). He will talk about various surgical techniques from the Civil War.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There will be ladies spinning wool, we'll have artists and we'll have a gentleman (Chris Olsen of Dagnabbit Studios, 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. both days) who will demonstrate a Civil War-era telescope," she noted.

"Suzanne Swenson has expertise in quilts from that time period and she will be available to talk to attendees and possibly do appraisals for a fee."

Other goods available include linen caps and ladies' fineries, plus there will be a rolled hem workshop (12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) put on by Valerie Long of Flying Heart Millinery. Participants can bring their own fabric and sewing items, or can purchase a kit with everything needed to make a linen handkerchief, including fabric, linen thread on a thread winder, needle and instruction card.

Olsen will take tintype photographs, for a fee, throughout the weekend for re-enactors in their fineries.

On Sunday at 8:30 a.m., Parson John will hold a divine service of worship in the North Room of the fairgrounds. The service will conclude in time for sutlers and demonstrators to open their shops for the day.

Admission to the show is $7 for adults at the door; children younger than 12 are admitted free. A $10 weekend pass also is available at the door. Those who come dressed in pre-1890s garb will receive a discount.

Rebecca Fairchild said a main goal of the show is to simply expose more people to an amazing part of American history.

"There are several museums and historical sites in the area such as Naper Settlement (Naperville), Blackberry Farm (Aurora), Macktown Living History Education Center (Rockton) and the Durant House Museum in St. Charles," she said. "This lets people know that there are things they can do locally with their kids that are fun and educational as well. We want to give them opportunities to have access to information. We want to get people interested in the hobby of living history, but we need to get young people interested in it so it can continue."

For details on the show, visit its Facebook page, @AmericanHeritageLivingHistoryShow. For information on Spring Valley Lodges, visit www.springvalleylodges.com.

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