Driving down the highway, you see the signs for the 28th annual Field Day of the Past and follow them into the parking lot.
After gaining your admittance to the show, you make your way to the Information Booth. The ladies at the desk give you a map of the show grounds and point out some of the spots of interest. As you make your way down Pullman Rd., you decide the 4-H and animal exhibits will be your first stop and you are drawn towards the young members showing off livestock with pride – there’s a winning dairy cow, a well- appointed pig and a delightfully fluffy bunny. As you watch, the smell of smoke drifts your way and catches your attention.
Moving from the 4-H displays, you discover the Smoke House where volunteers share the history of preserving meat through the smoking process. You learn that the wood used to smoke the meat flavors it and that different woods can be used for specific flavors. The volunteer holds out the ham and you inhale the smell of smoked meat. It reminds you of falls long past and sets you mind adrift until, turning from the Smoke House, you hear cannon fire. You must investigate.
In your search, you find a log cabin surrounded by heritage exhibits. A Civil War camp, 17th century woodworking exhibits, Revolutionary War demonstrations and colonial tinsmithing catch your eye. You stop to speak to each person, who gives you a history on their exhibit. Then you notice there is a “front porch” set up where there are people telling stories. You stop and listen to one of the tellers, whose stories make you laugh out loud. Chuckling to yourself, you move on to the log cabin where spinners and weavers ply their trades. Around the corner you find a colorful quilt that is heavy and warm and would be perfect for the winter months ahead.
The log cabin seems like a perfect place to explore and inside you find a rope bed, a lap loom and other implements of bygone days. Out the other door you go, and you see ladies spinning and dying flax. You discover the flax was grown on the show grounds. As you turn, you see steam rising so you wander that direction. You stop and get a soda from Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda Pop and see that the steam is rising from the sawmill building. It shoots into the air when the steam whistle is blown, raining down on you. As you watch, a giant saw blade chews through the logs, cutting them into boards. Sawdust flies and the workers shout instructions to one another. You can barely hear their voices over the sound of their work.
The mechanical churn from the other side of the building breaks through to catch your attention and you walk down to see what’s going on. The men at Grasberger’s Spoon Factory shout their “hellos” to you. Here the lively bunch is telling stories and jokes while talking to the crowd about making wooden ice cream spoons. “No ice cream here!” says one worker with an exaggerated frown, but he points you to the Educational Building where you find the 4-H Science Club dishing up milk shakes.
With your milkshake in hand, you wander through the exhibits in the Educational Building, looking at old photographs, antique radios and kitchen utensils from the past. You pause for a moment at the World War II exhibit and read the stories of the men and women who served during the war.
Turning around you see the farm exhibit where many of the tools date back to the days when horse power truly meant horses. Across the aisle, you notice the printing press in operation. The volunteer is inking her press. She tells you that when presses like the one she is working were popular, a good typesetter could set up to 120 words a minute – and the letters were backwards! You marvel at the tiny letters and think how nimble fingers had to be to set type. The printer gives you a post card on which the ink has just dried and says you can get stamps to mail it at the Post Office, just next door.
Finding yourself inside the busy Post Office, you look at the exhibits on the wall and wait your turn. You learn that the Post Office is run by retired and current postal employees who volunteer their time and that Field Day of the Past commissions its own cancellation stamp each year. You purchase your stamp and it is cancelled right there in front of you, using the special stamp. The helpful volunteer tells you about the Short Pump Grocery Store that is on the show grounds, and how she used to visit it when she was young. You decide that will be your next stop and you head that direction.
On the way, you pass the tractor pulls, so you stop and watch those for a while and learn that, come dark, there will also be truck pulls. Moving on through the arts and crafts vendors, you collect gifts for your friends, family and for yourself. You find yourself wandering toward Springfield Baptist Church and inside you learn that moving the church was a massive undertaking by Field Day volunteers. There is music playing here and you sit here in the cool for a while and listen.
Finally, you arrive at Short Pump Grocery where you purchase a hunk of cheese freshly cut from the large wheel of cheese they have. Outside the store, you flop down on a bench to eat your cheese in the shade and you notice the Short Pump Transmission Shop. You head that way and walk into the shop’s bay and learn what life was life in 1930s Short Pump and see what a service station in that age was really like. Walking out the bay doors, you see the Ferris Wheel in the carnival area and you think, “Just one ride!”
From the top of the Ferris Wheel you can see the entire Field Day of the Past event – off in the distance, the lawn mower pulls, the construction equipment demonstrations, and all the other sights you missed. “Wow,” you think. “I’m glad I bought a three-day pass.”
Field Day of the Past truly has something for everyone. Come and Wallow in the Fun.
The 2019 Field Day of the Past runs from Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 22. Gates open at 8 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21 and at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22. Truck pulls begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $10 on Friday, $15 on Saturday and $10 on Sunday. Senior passes are $8 for those 62 years and older. Children 12 and younger are free. Two- and Three-Day passes are available at the gate for $18 and $28, respectively. A block of 10 tickets is available for $80 in advance. Each ticket is good for any one show day. Block tickets go off sale at noon on Sept. 19. Parking is free. Food is available on the grounds. No alcoholic beverages are allowed and .exhibits close at 6 p.m.
For information, including a Schedule of Events, a map and an online ticket link, visit the website at www.fielddayofthepast.net and keep up to date on Facebook. For a free Field Day of the Past newspaper, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 908-1412. The Field Day of the Past show grounds are located 14 miles west of Richmond, off I-64, Exit 173. Exit south and watch for signs. Access is available from Rt. 288 and Broad Street Rd. For GPS users, plug in 1741 Ashland Rd., Rockville, VA 23146.