TRAVERSE CITY — Take a trip back in time this weekend to the Port Oneida Fair's showcase of rural crafts, trades and activities from a century ago.
The up-close and personal experience features 100 artists and craftspeople demonstrating late 1800s and early 1900s skills. The event is held over six sites in the historic Port Oneida Rural Historic District of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear and the lakeshore host the annual event, which over the years has drawn 3,500 to 4,000 people to the two-day gathering. Scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the fair offers a blend of education, music and fun.
"There are hands-on opportunities for all ages," said Susan Pocklington, director of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear. "It's a full-sensory experience and we find that all ages love it."
The Port Oneida Fair is meant to raise awareness of the unique historic district, which includes 18 homesteads over 340 acres.
"The Port Oneida Fair basically is our annual special event that involves so many people and so many arts and crafts," said Dusty Shultz, superintendent of the park. "It really brings this large area to life."
"It's a wonderful opportunity and our visitors just love it," she added. "You can see things you haven't seen for many years."
During the fair, activities at the sites include:
n Burfiend Barn — live music, square dancing, local history and maritime activities.
n Dechow Farm — agricultural activities, featuring hay cutting and working horses and oxen.
n Port Oneida Schoolhouse — a one-room schoolhouse.
n Kelderhouse Farm — Civil War living history, Kelderhouse family history.
n Olsen Farm — quilting, historic cooking demonstrations, butter-making and soap-making.
n Thoreson Farm — spinning, blacksmith, local artist and musicians.
"This is unique, very, very special," said Pocklington. "It's right here in our national park and many people don't know about it."
Members of the St. Mary Quilters based in Lake Leelanau demonstrated their skills and knowledge at the fair for the past 12 years.
"We get a lot of questions," said Ruth Kalchik, a group member. "This year we'll be working on a grandmother's flower garden quilt, which was put together by hand."
Friday night at the fair will feature a fundraising Port Oneida Picnic Chicken Dinner, a popular activity that helps the nonprofit Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear present the annual fair.
Approximately 50 volunteers make the Port Oneida Fair possible. The fair showcases the largest intact public-owned agricultural community in the nation.
Linda Stevenson, of Empire, contributed her time and talents to the Port Oneida Fair for the past two years. She enjoys sharing the area's culture and history.
"It would be lost history if we weren't doing this," she said. "It's a wonderful history lesson."