Bounty hunters and escaped slaves may sound like a game for the Wii but this Friday, November 11 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. you can get your children off the couch and into living history. For a fiver, Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro’s is welcoming the public to experience what is would be like to be part of the Underground Railroad.
Though the Adirondacks has ties to the Underground Railroad, this particular experience, though historically accurate, is not placed true to the location. According to Stites McDaniel, Director of the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) to provide a more in-depth experience participants play the roles of slaves and attempt to avoid bounty hunters as they move from station to station.
“Bounty hunters wouldn’t have necessarily gone this far north,” says McDaniel. “It would have been more likely the common citizen turning in a runaway for the reward. We had to take a bit of creative license in order for the participants to get, what we felt, would be the entire experience from escape to freedom. There was still the danger throughout the Underground Railroad network as the slaves were shuttled north.”
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while staff and volunteers play the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. McDaniel encourages people to come with questions as the event always closes with a discussion. He asks that people take a moment to truly suspend belief and immerse themselves in the experience.
“We run this program with high school and lower middle school students,” says McDaniel. “We have had children as young as seven and are able to cater to the age of the participant. We do not over glamorize. We want families with younger children to feel included.”
This community event is a partnership with the 1812 Homestead, where the event takes place. According to McDaniel the “escaped slaves” will move to each station where there will be an historic discovery during the re-enactment. When a group is participating in a learning station they are off limits to the bounty hunters. As the group moves from station to station they are then running from bounty hunters or may be fortunate to find an abolitionist.
McDaniel says, “We try to incorporate as much historical reference as possible. People may meet a traveling abolitionist named Lucretia Mott. There will also be someone acting as a member of local Keese family. The whole re-enactment is about two hours. Within that timeframe participants will be doing their own learning. We do end with a debriefing. We don’t end the activity without a discussion.”
Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 300 acres, focuses on an outdoor educational experience. The waterfront facilities provide opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and fishing while the property utilizes onsite skiing, mountain biking and nature trails. Catering primarily to school and youth groups, the Pok-O-MacCready OEC continues to add community events to their roster based on their popular school events.
photo of Underground Railroad re-enactment at Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center used with permission.
Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates), the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities.