Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s 2017

You're probably wondering why it has taken several weeks for this blog post to happen...more than once I've tried to start typing away. I would then get distracted by literally anything around me, including books, cleaning, sewing, beading, family, and cuddles with the puppy. After a certain point I said "Okay Kristen. You get a break for a few weeks." And then I took a break and feel more invigorated for this post! (By the way, pictures brought to you by Ken Giorlando, Larissa Fleishman, Samantha McLoughlin, and myself). So here goes!

One thing that I had not planned on for this conference was my anxiety leading up to the first day Despite the fact that Glenna Jo and I plotted out details, delegated work, and crunched numbers all in advance. Most of the stress traveled to the pit of my stomach, knotting itself a dozen times over. I had all these questions clunking around my head. What if I missed something? What if I was wrong about this calculation? What if the weather pulls a Michigan left and leaves us in blizzard conditions?
This is my planning face

 I stayed with my folks near Monroe the night before the conference, and I am so glad that I did. They forced me to eat, and went through any last minute preparations. My Dad added his famous humor to the mix (if it all goes wrong, then you don't have to do it next year!) while my Stepmom supplied a soothing glass of wine. I slept all of 5 hours, waking up in a tangle of blankets. I called my Stepdad on the way to the college, my last pep-talk before it all began. When I walked into Monroe County Community College that morning, I was ready.

Another thing I didn't prepare for: how amazingly awesome everyone was about everything. The vendors were amazing in their thoughtfulness and flexibility; I can plan for months, but at the end of the day, we really need to see people in a physical space to fully understand it. It worked! And did I mention they were all awesome? Here's who we had as vendors this year (the lineup slightly changed due to health issues):

To be honest, I spent more time running around the building than in one spot. It was as if movement took my nervous energy outwards. I probably logged about 10 million steps for the weekend, and I certainly lost a few pounds! Maybe I could fit into one of those original dresses now...
Or maybe just my wrist...

Friday at Monroe County Community College went pretty smoothly-I stopped being nervous almost as soon as I walked in the door! People shopped, we hurried and set up the display area. After the workshops (which sold out fairly early, note for next year guys), everyone made their way to the Historic Sawyer Homestead. It. Was. Awesome!
I had a chance to show off my perforated paper collection!
Note for next year: More audio tour!

Here we were, in an actual historic house. Dancing with the music of Peace Jubilee Band, eating yummy food (a special shout-out to Jillian for her AMAZING springerle cookies), and having a likeness taken by Robert Beech. Michigan graced us with beautiful weather, so I chatted in the gazebo and occasionally spun around in circles on the lawn. Some people wore their 19th century attire, and others simply observed. It was a comfortable gathering, somehow intimate with nearly 100 people around every space of the house. I'm glad we didn't require period clothing for this part; we had a few beginners that were still learning, and it made it far less intimidating for them!

Saturday and Sunday were a blur of presentations, shopping, and examination of original items. People were allowed to choose between different sessions, and most were split about 50/50 between the two rooms. I think people really appreciated the extra time to shop and catch up with each other. Also, I pretended to breathe sometimes. This time we had over 100 people, but the college is big enough to really handle large groups if we chose in the future to do so.

Saturday/Sunday Classes
An Exhibition of Civil War Era Wedding Photographs~Susan Anthony
19th Century Warm Weather Wear for Men~Bill Christen
Pregnancy in the 1850s and 1860s~Glenna Jo Christen
Civil War Collection: William Clements Library~J. Kevin Graffagnino
Doll Basics 101- 1850-1865~Samantha McLoughlin
Joseph Holt and the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators~Steven Ramold
Oh Good Grief; The History of Mourning Practices~Jomarie Soszynski
Bringing the Past to Life~Ken Giorlando, Larissa Fleishman, and Jackie Schubert
19th Century Entertainments~Michael Mescher
Making Young People Feel Welcome at Your Event~Kristen Mrozek

Let me also add that the food was good! The college caters events, and while lunch was average fare (sandwiches), dinner was fantastic. Like, going up for seconds and thirds. I ate more at dinner than I'd eaten for a few days prior. People then had a chance to eat, relax, shop, and just hang out. I saw more than one finished apron floating around the room. And many, many awesome conversations about living history and how we make that happen.
A nearly-finished apron!
A young lady and her coloring project.
I needed to add this because Day of the Dead 
skulls are so awesome!

Sunday felt kind of sad, like we were ending a big party. But alas, all good times must come to an end. My talk about including young people was save for last. I LOVED my presentation, possibly because I spent a lot of time putting it together. And the pictures included young people climbing trees or doing fun stuff. I like fun stuff!
Our fun stuff wore everyone out

Another huge bonus from the weekend-we had 20 people under the age of 35 (and if you're over 35, you probably mentored someone so thank you!). This means that young people DO want to learn, and finding ways to include them will only better the hobby as a whole. Yes young people, we want you! You are very valuable to us and our future!

So I contemplated adding just a short blurb at the end of this post to sum up my learning. In reality, the reflection stage of this conference seems enormous. We know what we can change for next year. People expect improvement. Gosh, I'm already ticking the things in my mind that I need to do. In the next week or so I will publish a post about how to plan an event like this, and all the tips and tricks I learned along the way. I want to see more of these events around the country for one purely selfish reason: I'd like to attend!

In the end, I would call this first year conference a success. But it wouldn't have been possible without the help of so many people: all of my parents, including my Mom who did the food for the Sawyer House. Everyone at the Historic Sawyer Homestead. The food service staff at the College-also the hardworking janitors and event coordinator. Glenna Jo, Bill, the speakers, vendors. You all made this happen!

 Get ready for 2018!


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...