Kline Creek's Independence Day celebration with a twist

Step back in time with Kline Creek's Independence Day celebration

  • Fourth of July celebrations weren't always about hot dogs and fireworks. Visitors to Kline Creek Farm on Saturday can get a taste of how we celebrated the holiday more than a century ago.

    Fourth of July celebrations weren't always about hot dogs and fireworks. Visitors to Kline Creek Farm on Saturday can get a taste of how we celebrated the holiday more than a century ago. Daily Herald file photo

  • The house at Kline Creek Farm will be decorated for the holiday.

    The house at Kline Creek Farm will be decorated for the holiday. Daily Herald file photo

  • Kline Creek Farm's Independence Day celebration is a great time to see how folks partied back in the 1800s.

    Kline Creek Farm's Independence Day celebration is a great time to see how folks partied back in the 1800s. Daily Herald file photo

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted6/29/2018 9:03 AM

Fourth of July celebrations weren't always about hot dogs, corn on the cob and fireworks.

More than 100 years ago, revelers would take time to read the statement that summarized the colonists' intent to break away from England and become a new nation: the Declaration of Independence.

 

As was the custom in the 1890s, the 1,458-word document will be read aloud as part of the all-day festivities at the Celebrate the Fourth event Saturday at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago.

"We do a full reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was a pretty common Fourth of July (practice)," says Dennis Buck, heritage interpreter at the living-history farm, operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to celebrate life in the late 19th century.

"It takes about 10 minutes. When you read it aloud, it makes more sense."

The reading, delivered by a farm volunteer, will be part of the ceremonial festivities set to begin at 6 p.m. that also will include poetry readings, an excerpt from a speech by Abraham Lincoln that likely led to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and acoustic guitar versions of patriotic songs such as "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" and "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)."

But even back then people liked to cut loose and have fun, too, in celebration of independence. In that tradition, a variety of games and activities will begin at 1:30 p.m., Buck says, and the party continues until 8 p.m.

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"It's for people to come into and out of as they like," he says.

The celebration also will include the chance to make paper hats as part of a craft project and to watch a baseball game played by 1890s rules and using equipment similar to what was used in that time period.

"The most visible difference is the use of gloves was just coming into practice. We do have gloves for people to wear, but they don't look like baseball mitts," Buck says. "They look like leather gloves with a little extra padding."

Buck says the nation's fascination with baseball goes back at least as far as the 1860s.

"It was certainly being played in the Civil War. It was a game that was more of a Northeastern game," he says.

The game caught on in other parts of the country as troops moved across the land during the war, he says.

Around 4 p.m., an 1890s version of fireworks -- tiny hot-air balloons -- will dot the sky with color.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're going to do some tissue paper hot-air balloon launches," Buck says.

Visitors also may tour the farm's historic structures and visit the animals that make Kline Creek their home.

"Then, at 5 o'clock, we're going to shift gears a little bit," Buck says. "We'll churn some ice cream. The public can help us chip up the ice. Then we'll put it aside for a couple of hours to become ice cream."

Visitors will enjoy that homemade confection at 7 p.m. when an ice cream social coincides with a second balloon launch.

The event is free, but there is a $5 charge for horse-drawn wagon rides that will leave at 5:30, 6:15 and 7 p.m. There is no charge for wagon rides for children younger than 5; children younger than 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Wagon rides will be canceled if the weather is too rainy or hot for the horses.

Buck says the event, which usually draws around 1,000 people, is purposely scheduled for a few days before July 4 as a sort of preamble to Independence Day celebrations.

"We don't want to compete with everybody else's Fourth of July program," he says.

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