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Country fair celebrates Native American history

This year's theme of the Rock Hall Old-Fashioned

This year's theme of the Rock Hall Old-Fashioned Country Fair in Lawrence focused on Long Island's rich Native American history.(October 22, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Amy Vacchio, of Oceanside, has been going to the Rock Hall Museum’s Old-Fashioned Country Fair her whole life, and she says just about the only thing that changes each year is its theme. And that’s how she likes it.

This year, the fair celebrated Native American history. Past themes have included the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and, last year, pirates, because Rock Hall endured the golden age of piracy.

Each year, Vacchio and her children make scarecrows for Halloween. This year, her son, Jackamo, 5, even sported some face paint to look like a skeleton.

“I enjoy the children’s crafts. There’s a lot of great things for the kids to do,” said Vacchio, 33, at the 26th annual event in Lawrence on Saturday. The fair was open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The fair began as a way to celebrate the Rock Hall Museum’s rich history. The museum was built in 1767 for Josiah Martin, a wealthy West Indian plantation owner, and later owned by the Martin and Hewlett families. It was deeded to the Town of Hempstead in 1948 and opened as a museum in 1958 after a restoration effort.

The idea for the fair came in 1985 from Linda Barreira, 56, who now serves as the museum’s director. She said about 5,000 people will come to the museum to enjoy the pumpkin patch, visit with merchants, and have a full day of fun while spending little to no money.

“People that visit here are happy and they want to be here,” she said. “It needs to be free. I think people need things that are free and friendly.”

The fair featured displays of traditional gatherings performed by Native Americans. Haystacks surrounded the lawn on the museum so spectators could sit and learn dances and their meanings. Colonial-style guns and traditional open-hearth cooking were also featured.

Diane Fish, a Civil War re-enactor and cooking historian, was making “Curries,” a curry dish that dates to 1847. The 59-year-old Commack woman said she has been cooking historic dishes she was 10.

“I try very hard to follow the letter of the recipe as much as I possibly can, otherwise it’s not historic,” she said. “What’s nice [about the fair] is that I can share how the recipe was made, I can share some of the culture involved in it, I can share with the public how things were made, the tools that were used and even get people to try things out of their comfort zone.”


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