CENTRAL POINT — If the historic Hanley Farm wasn't one of the few turn-of-the-century farms still in operation today, Thursday morning might have looked like a step back in time, with excited, hard working children doing everything from milking cows and churning butter to washing laundry outdoors and making colorful wax candles.
The Children's Heritage Fair, hosted by the Southern Oregon Historical Society, kicked off for the second year in its new location.
What: Public event during the Children's Heritage Fair, sponsored by the Southern Oregon Historical Society
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 1
Where: Hanley Farm, 1053 Hanley Road (Highway 238), between Jacksonville and Central Point
Admission: $4 for kids
For more information: www.sohs.org
A Rogue Valley tradition long held in downtown Jacksonville among the museums, historic structures and the old pioneer cemetery, the fair was moved to Hanley Farm in 2011 amid budget tightening and reduced staffing.
Despite the location change, hands-on experiences were hardly in short supply Thursday beneath the historic backdrop of the old barn and farmhouse. The smell of baked bread wafted past children being instructed in the making of adobe bricks and being taught to tend a garden.
The event offered schoolchildren hands-on stations ranging from kitchen and housekeeping skills to gardening, animal care and brick making, and included a station that discussed the journey along the Oregon Trail.
Third-graders Josephine Puckett and Serena Loewenstein, from Ashland's Hellman Elementary School, got to try using an apple corer, churning butter, grinding wheat and cooking bread on an outdoor fire.
"We made bread and butter and we get to eat it," said Josephine, 9.
"It's a really cool experience because a lot of kids don't really get to live on farms anymore or get to experience that kind of life. It's fun being here and we don't have to do math at all today."
Josephine said that while her dad is adept at making "really good muffins," she was eager to tell him about her bread-making experience.
Teacher Matt Damon teased the girls, warning of hidden learning opportunities in the half-dozen hands-on stations. "I dunno. I think there might be some stations that involve measuring or some other kind of math."
Resting in the shadows of the historic barn, two dozen students from Central Point Elementary were instructed in caring for farm animals, hauling water, milking cows and even sitting in a saddle fastened to a straw bale.
Jewett Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Charity Schmitt said that with students just on the heels of learning about the Oregon Trail, the event was both educational and a fun way to spend a school day.
Zen Stec, 10, and Janie Kenaston, 9, tried their luck at hauling heavy pails of water on a hoist across their shoulders and petted baby sheep.
"It's cool to get to experience the kind of life kids had on the Oregon Trail," Zen said.
"I'm looking forward to candle-making," Janie said.
"The water thing was really heavy. It was a lot different back then because kids worked really hard. This shows us how things really were for pioneers."
Emma Abby, education programs coordinator for SOHS, said the Children's Festival would host 800 kids total, not counting whatever crowd turns out for an expanded event that includes craft stations and live music on Saturday.
Abby, a Massachusetts native and one of four resident farmers at Hanley Farm, said the event is an important component in teaching local students about their state heritage.
"When I was a kid we went to these kinds of events and I just loved it. And now I'm a farmer and I run these kinds of events to teach these kids about it," she said.
While he didn't plan to rush out and build any structures with the adobe bricks he mixed on Thursday, 9-year-old Tanner Gonzalez enjoyed the chance to get his hands dirty and do laundry in a fashion he far preferred over today's methods.
"We mixed the bricks with water, dirt, clay and hay and put the stuff in these wooden things shaped like bricks. Then we stomped on them and evened it out with our hands. It was really fun," said the boy.
"My favorite part was the laundry because, back in the day, laundry was actually really a lot more fun than it is nowadays. You actually got to do stuff to make the clothes cleaner. We got to put clothes in the thing where you scroll it up and get the water out and then you hang it outside and let it sit for about a day."
Asked his perception of pioneer life, the fourth grader was quick to respond.
"It was really hard for people a long time ago because they had to work really hard, which was probably tiring," he noted.
"But there were a lot of different things to do, so I think it was really fun, too."
After a second session for local students at Hanley Farm today, the event will be open to the public (admission $4 for kids) 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, marking the farm stand's opening day.
Hanley Farm is at 1053 Hanley Road (Highway 238), between Jacksonville and Central Point. For more information, visit www.sohs.org.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org