Wednesday, September 15, 2010
We are lucky to live only 50 miles from the largest living history museum in the US (and one of the largest in the world). Old World Wisconsin is a favorite fall day trip - we like to go when school starts, as we get almost 600 acres pretty much all to ourselves, with full re-enactment staff!
We love to explore - not only visiting each farm and finding out what traditions, crafts, and architecture people brought to Wisconsin in the 1800's from their 'home' countries, but also to have a day out in the sunshine, walking the trails, just being outside in the woods all day long. This time of year we can also see the leaves starting to turn.
This museum has many traditional farms setup - spread out over hundreds of acres. So each farm you visit is a whole experience. Wisconsin was settled by many people - Danish, German, Norwegian, and Finnish, to name a few.
Each farm has a real historical home that has been re-located to this outdoor museum, with stories of the original families who lived there, and each home has someone 'living' there who is busy on the farm...milking the cow, doing the wash, baking pies, working in the full garden, cooking dinner, spinning or weaving, and of course chatting with visitors. My guys love finding out about who lived there, what they slept on, what they ate, and what 'chores' the kids had back then (kids had to work!). ;)
The fun part is of course it is a living history museum - so we get to participate in many things, and not just watch...both boys especially love the blacksmith where they get to fan the flames.
The farms also have animals to visit - cows, chickens, oxen, horses, sheep, and one very big friendly pig.
The museum also has a one room schoolhouse, a town with several shops and a blacksmith, and a town hall full of vintage games and toys. Our favorite there has always been the tops and of course stilts and hoop and stick. We always spend a long time there, so do that last.
This visit we were in the kids activity area at closing time, and the boys were asked to help retire the flag for the day (oh, such excitement!). They took their job very seriously, and helped bring it down, fold, and put away.
While we love love love to walk most of the time, there is a tram to ride between areas - it is almost 600 acres after all - which is always a nice way to chill out and let the boys sit for a few.
One thing that was very different this trip is that in June this museum was hit by a tornado. The tornado flattened hundreds (thousands?) of trees, wiping out big swaths of forest, and damaging some buildings.
While it is amazing that the tornado primarily hit the parking and entrance areas and left most of the historical buildings in tact (and all farm animals survived), it is still quite shocking to drive in and see the damage, even a few months later. We did see photos and video of the damage after the tornado (and the aerial views, wow), but it of course isn't the same as seeing it in person. There were times we just stood with our mouths open at the mountains of broken trees which are still being trucked out - and the boys hugged and climbed on the stump remaining from their favorite tree, where we used to sit and have lunch.
We always learn so much, and not just about the past...
What a wonderful day!