“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & Village

“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageWhile DIY, or “do it yourself”, projects have become a trendy way of life in recent years, recycling and repurposing has always been a part of farm living – especially at Hale Farm & Village. Preserving the story of the Western Reserve is the backbone to the InHale initiative, and we could not do it without the help of community members who volunteer their versatile skills and talents.

When making new developments and improvements, we encourage repurposing materials recovered on our 90+ acres of land. But, what exactly is repurposing? Repurposing can be done by modifying material to fit a new use, or by using the material in a new way. Ultimately, instead of throwing away used or worn material, that material can be reworked to create something that appears brand new.


“Saving the Past”: Volunteering and the Repurposing Projects at Hale Farm & VillageSo how does this work at a living history museum? “Back in 2015, all twenty-two sets of shutters on the three-story brick Hale House were restored and repainted,” offers Joe Tokarsky, Preservation Lead at Hale Farm. “Also, our sheep were given new feeders and our crafters were given new looms from repurposed wood.” All of these projects directly support the mission of the museum and our ability to provide quality programs for our visitors and the community.

The latest repurposing project at Hale Farm is a multipurpose, saltbox shaped wood shed, built entirely out of repurposed wood from old fencing in the Hale Farm south pasture. The man behind the scenes of these various projects is Bill Dunick. Dunick has been volunteering at Hale Farm & Village for two and a half years, offering us his expertise in carpentry and repurposing. Dunick resides in Kent, Ohio and is a Kent State graduate in Industrial Arts. He worked in engineering and manufacturing management for forty years and has built three homes in his lifetime. A friend of Dunick’s was a volunteer at Hale Farm and suggested he join the team as well. Although Dunick’s superb and efficient work has been in high demand on the farm, he is free to work at his leisure. Dunick volunteers at Hale Farm not only for his enjoyment of carpentry, but because of the importance of repurposing. “As a society, we need to repurpose. Today we throw things away; I see a pile of what you would think is trash as a new creation that can be repurposed.”

As a volunteer, Dunick chooses his hours and is provided with tools, space, and materials to work with. There are plenty of projects to go around at Hale Farm & Village, so if you are interested in creating and preserving, please click here for more information about volunteer opportunities.

Hale Farm & Village annual Civil War Reenactment & Encampment

Civil War Reenactment 2016 at Hale Farm and Village

Civil War Reenactment 2016 at Hale Farm & VillageWhen hundreds of Civil War reenactors come to Hale Farm & Village on Aug. 13, they will again bring their uniforms, equipment, horses, and military protocol to recreate America’s defining historical period.

The reenactment weekend will be just as meaningful for them as it will be for spectators, as they get to experience a taste of what Civil War soldiers endured.

Akron resident Chris Smith, who has reenacted Civil War battles for the past 27 years, most of them at Hale Farm, likes to use the term “magic moments” to describe scenes that happen unexpectedly during a battle reenactment weekend.

When Chris and his fellow reenactors visit Hale Farm, they camp out overnight on Saturday and use the same amenities that were available to Civil War soldiers, such as cooking breakfast and brewing coffee over a campfire. Every detail, including the tents they sleep in, are made to look as real as the resources Civil War soldiers used in their day.

Civil War Reenactment 2016 at Hale Farm and Village“For me one of the greatest moments of any reenactment is at sunrise, when it’s damp or foggy,” Chris said. “(The scenery) looks like a painting.”

And unlike a virtual game on Xbox, these magic moments take your breath away, according to Chris.

One year at a Hale Farm reenactment, five wild turkeys strode past the camping soldiers early in the morning toward the woods, as if they expected the reenactors to be there, Chris said.

Bob Minton, who will serve as the overall federal commander at the upcoming Civil War reenactment, had a magic moment at Hale Farm last year when the armies recreated the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Va. Bob said it was one of the few times in his 24-year Civil War reenacting career that he couldn’t help but get all emotional.

Hale Farm’s fields and village area provide a unique and beautiful backdrop to stage these historical moments, Bob said.

Get ready for the Battle of Big Bethel

This year’s event will involve recreating the Battle of Big Bethel, an early skirmish in the Civil War that took place near Newport News, Virginia on June 10, 1861.

Big Bethel pitted 3,500 Union troops against 1,400 Confederate troops, and its significance lies in the fact it showed Federal authorities that the Confederacy was able to carry on a determined military struggle for independence.

Hale Farm & Village has become the largest annual Civil War reenactment event in Ohio, hosting 500 to 800 reenactors, 6 to 8 cannons, and 35 to 50 cavalry, according to Bob. Many of these dedicated reenactors come from other states.

In addition to the guys who are going to battle, Camp Chase Fifes and Drums Corps. will return to Hale Farm to play over 60 historical tunes, including “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “Downfall of Paris.”

Civil War Reenactment 2016 at Hale Farm and VillageA hobby with commitment, friendship

Why do these guys keep coming back, not only to Hale Farm, but other national Civil War events? The heat of summer doesn’t stop them from donning the uniforms and putting on as authentic of a demonstration as possible.

For Bob, Chris, and Mike Church, who rides in the Sixth Ohio Cavalry, Civil War reenacting brings awe and memorable interaction with the crowds.

“Reenacting has gotten smaller (nationally), so small venues like Hale Farm & Village are more intimate,” Chris noted.

“Talking to the crowd never gets boring,” not even 30 years later, Mike said. He’s been participating in reenactments since he was 17 and learned to ride a horse specifically for these events.

Bob agreed with Mike that reenacting never gets boring and noted that all the battalions are always recruiting new reenactors. Men who are interested in becoming reenactors can ask any of the soldiers at Hale Farm’s Civil War reenactment about it, and they’ll gladly tell them where to find the nearest unit for meetings and mentoring.

The units meet in the winter and spring to decide on their reenacting venues for the year, then practice drills in the spring, as well as the mornings of battle events, Bob said.

Besides educating kids on Civil War-era weaponry, cavalry, strategies, and cooking, the reenactors have taken their passion for history and turned it into lifelong friendships

Mike noted that if he stopped doing Civil War reenacting, he probably would never see all the men he’s become friends with over the years. He and his wife feel a special kinship to the other reenactors, and they all have driven up to eight hours to attend birthdays, weddings, and funerals.

“It’s like close family,” Mike said. “There are no socioeconomic barriers. There are small-time millionaires, minimum wage earners, and everything in between serving side by side in the same unit. We’re just one big family.”

Hale Farm to showcase folk music, fine Ohio wines

Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival at Hale Farm & VillageWhat would a summer be like without music and food? And what’s a fine wine without a complementary piece of cheese?

Hale Farm & Village will bring together the best of all the above-mentioned elements on July 9 and 10 at its Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival. And when I say the best, I mean some excellent local folk musicians will be there along with popular vintages from Ohio’s well-known wineries.

The 2016 Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and this year’s event is the first in its 41-year history to be sponsored by TheWineBuzz magazine.

I spoke with Sue Myers, publisher and creative director for TheWineBuzz, about what to expect in this year’s tastings of Ohio-made wines. She told me the magazine and Hale Farm will hold two winetasting seminars on both Saturday and Sunday, a sensory experience of wine at 2:00 and a pairing of wine and cheeses at 4:00.

Participation will be on a first come, first serve basis and limited to the first 24 people at each seminar. Four Ohio wines, two reds and two whites, will be sampled, along with apple slices, lemon wedges, and a small pile of salt. Participants will taste the wine by itself, then taste each of these food items to get a sense of how each complements the full components of the wine. The pairing of cheeses with wines at 4:00 will be a similar experience.

Sue, who cultivates her own vineyard on a small plot in Madison, Ohio, says she knows personally how difficult it is to grow grapes, then produce quality wine and market it. Attendees will see that she is a wealth of knowledge on winetasting, as well as a big music and Hale Farm aficionado.
Following the seminars, attendees will receive some neat goodies to take home, such as tasting journals, wine-and-food-pairing wheels, and wine-and-cheese-pairing information.

Admission to the Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival is $10 for adults and $5 for children 3 to 12 years in age; WRHS members are free. Wine and tastings are $10 for a glass and 5 tickets (good for one tasting each).

Wine varieties for all tastes

Although the winetasting seminars will have limited attendance, don’t be discouraged, folk music fans. You will have other opportunities to whet your palates at the Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival and learn the nuances of winemaking from the producers themselves.

Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival at Hale Farm & VillageSome of the wineries that will be represented are:

Here’s a rundown, though not a complete list, of what some of the wineries are bringing to the festival:

  • Maize Valley will bring its Redneck Red Sweet, Sinfully White, Mad Cow, and Big Red Pecker wines.
  • M Cellars will bring Rkatsiteli, a white, crisp wine made from Ukrainian-grown grapes; a Chablis-style chardonnay, Terroir Red, and Meritage blends.
  • The Winery at Spring Hill will bring not only their award winning wines but also hard apple ciders (regular and hopped).

Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival at Hale Farm & VillageFolknet keeps it jamming

The other big sponsors for the Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival continue to be Folknet and the Barking Spider Tavern of Cleveland.

Hale Farm will set up a main stage under a large tent in the Village Green where attendees can hear Northeast Ohio folk musicians Charlie MosbrookThe Fretters, Red Brick Rhoades, Stone Cold Soup, Rock Salt & Nails and others.

No doubt many past attendees to the Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival are familiar with Charlie’s music, which is strongly influenced by the tunes of Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotton, and James Bland.

Charlie hosts open mic folk music nights at Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland Heights, and his most recent record is A Time Long Gone, released February 2015. He is scheduled to perform on Hale Farm’s stage on Saturday at 2:40 p.m.

At least 200 folk musicians come out to the Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival every year, Bill Schilling, Folknet’s treasurer told me. Some come from out of state to find a good spot by a tree to strum their guitars, banjos, fiddles, or dulcimers.

Bill noted that Folknet’s involvement in Hale Farm’s folk festival started decades ago at roughly the same time that the Folknet musician duo of Jim Tucker and Dave Trowbridge were playing music at Hale Farm every weekend.

From that time, Folknet began partnering with Hale Farm and Village on its annual folk music festival.

“This event gets a lot of people together to play with each other and get to know each other, even if they’re vastly different,” Bill said about the event’s significance to Folknet.

That said, bring your lawn chairs and blankets and relax to some great tunes at Hale Farm & Village.

Photos: Nancy Balluck Photography