This Saturday my family and six of my son’s friends will be celebrating his birthday by becoming part of the Underground Railroad. It won’t be the typical birthday party, but it is the one that my son wants to share with his friends. Presented by the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center and the Underground Railroad Historical Association, the North County Underground Railroad Experience will be held rain, snow or shine at the Willsboro 1812 Homestead Museum on November 23 from 6-9 pm. This trip through local history is a mere $5 per person.
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while the Pok-O-MacCready staff plays the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. According to Brian DeGroat, Director of the Outdoor Education Center, the event is geared to children ages 10 and older due mainly to the serious issues regarding slavery and gearing the lecture to an older audience.
“This is not an event we do every year,” says DeGroat. “We have staff playing all the roles during the simulation for quality control. We want to make sure that no inappropriate language is used and that we are focusing on a learning experience. We start with a discussion and then a shuttle will take everyone to the 1812 Homestead. Once there we have the farmhouse as a safe house and the candle shop as a commissions house.”
DeGroat stresses that groups will need to stay together instead of scattering if they are near a bounty hunter. If this were a real escape happening than the outcome would be different with people fleeing while others would be captured.
“We ask that groups remain together during the simulation,” says DeGroat. “We do have to alter that reality for safety reasons. I think it is important to recognize our area was an active part in the abolitionist movement. It was far reaching. We also need to look at history for the different points of view and what motivated these personal feelings.”
After the event a shuttle will return everyone to the Outdoor Education Center for a debriefing and lecture by Linda Richardson, which will focus on people that directly effected the anti-slave movement in the North County. Participants will wind down with s’mores in front of a campfire.
I’m not sure what to expect with this hands-on-activity, but I hope that it will bring a lot of wonderful discussions for the ride home.
Photo of the Underground Railroad Experience used with the permission of the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center.