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Hernando County Pioneer Day festival inspires hands-on hobbies

BROOKSVILLE — When Chinsegut Nature Center director Kristin Wood organized the first Pioneer Day festival 15 years ago, it was with the hope that people in the community might enjoy spending the day living in the past and exploring what life was like before electricity, cars and telephones.

What she didn't expect that a number of visitors would find the activities such as ropemaking, cane weaving, butter churning so fascinating that they would take them up as a hobby. As a result, Wood now has a healthy list of volunteers who are willing to come out each year to share their skills.

"They like passing along something they consider is too important to let die out," said Wood. "It's the people who take the time and effort to learn those skills that helps keep them alive for the future."

Ridge Manor Estates resident Judie Bradley is one of those people. She will be at the festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, demonstrating the art of fabric weaving. The hobby found a calling in her two years ago after she watched someone demonstrate the loom.

"I gave it a try and I was instantly hooked," Bradley said. "It gets in you. The more you do it, the more you want to learn."

Although the basic fabric weaving process is fairly simple, Bradley insists that it's more intricate than it looks.

"It takes time and you have to have a good amount of patience," she offered. "It makes you appreciate the time it took 150 years ago to make something simple like a cotton shirt."

In fact, Bradley contends it takes nearly five hours to thread the necessary fiber through the loom to a three-yard square of cotton fabric. And it takes another five hours operating the machine to make the cloth.

Bradley said that her greatest joy is showing young children how to operate the loom.

"That's why I love the festival so much," she said. "It's all about hands-on. I think kids appreciate that there are fun activities that don't involve sitting down in front of something to be entertained."

Logan Neill can be reached at or 848-1435.

.Fast facts

If you go

The annual Pioneer Day festival will feature horse-drawn wagon rides, old-fashioned children's games, hearth cooking and pioneer craft demonstrations, plus historical exhibits. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of the Chinsegut Nature Center, 23212 Lake Lindsey Road, west of U.S. 41, north of Brooksville. Activities are free. Food items and products made during the event will be available for purchase. Parking for the event will be at 24059 Childs Road. A shuttle will take visitors to the center. Call 754-6722.

Hernando County Pioneer Day festival inspires hands-on hobbies 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 6:19pm]
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