by James Coulter
Old spinsters spin yarn from flax. A blacksmith pulls a burning red iron from the fire and strikes it on the anvil. And a cook serves chicken stew served from a cauldron over an open fire.
These scenes were not from the olden days of yore. In fact, they all happened last weekend along the shores of Lake Wailes Park during the 46th Annual Pioneer Days Festival in Lake Wales.
On Saturday and Sunday, several dozen historic demonstrators gathered to demonstrate crafts and other activities as they were practiced several hundred years ago. From fur clothes to yarn and wicker baskets, attendees could see how people made the items they required back in the old days.
Mike Linkswiler, President of the Lake Wales Woodturners, attended with his club members to sell their woodturning crafts including bowls, vases, and other pottery.
Mike has been with his organization for three years, while many of his fellow members have been around for ten to twenty years. This is the second year Mike has attended Pioneer Days, while the other members have been attending for five to six years.
“We are having a good time, and we appreciate the time being here,” he said. “I like the fact that they are looking at how crafts were once done by the pioneers.”
Aside from historic demonstrators, the event was attended by many other local vendors and food trucks, all selling their ware to attendees. For example, the local chapter of the NRA provided gun safety material including free gun locks.
Robert Dummett has been a lifelong resident of Lake Wales. He has been attending the event for many years, and he wanted to participate as early as last year. This was his first year participating, and he loved every moment of it.
“It is a great heritage festival, and it is a good time had by all,” he said. “As you can see by the crowd here, there are people of all groups here and everyone is having a good time.”
For nearly 50 years, Pioneer Days have been hosted by the Lake Wales History Museum to showcase the city’s local history and heritage. This was the first year the event was organized by Executive Director Melissa Stroller.
The only major change this year was the introduction of a water ski show hosted by the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team. Otherwise, the event had all of the festivities locals and visitors have come to expect.
“It has been a good turnout so far,” Stroller said. “This event has a long history. This is the 46th. It is practically an institution locally…I enjoy seeing it go off smoothly. That is for sure. Just seeing a variety of activities that will appeal to all people.”