Festival of the Hills offers glimpse at bygone days

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"Are these guns real?" 8-year-old Travis Keeton of Ironton asked as he eyed the table of Civil War-era weaponry.

"Yes, they're real," Civil War memorabilia collector Frank McCown said, picking up one of the guns and sliding his hand down the barrel. "This one has a bayonet on the end of it. See, it's sharp."

"I like that one over there," Keeton said, pointing to another gun. For Keeton, this table of guns, soap, herbs and hard tack was a hands-on lesson in American - and local- history. And that was the point, after all.

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The 18th annual Festival of the Hills began Saturday and closes today on the Ohio University Southern campus.

The festival is a local effort to preserve and present life as it was in the early days of the nation's history, before television, before microwaves and before automobiles.

Across the OUS campus, crafters showed their wares, carriages that were once drawn by horses stood as silent reminders of pre-modern means of travel, and the smell of food cooked over open fire wafted in the occasional breeze.

Organizer Dott Mayne said she was pleased with the turnout, and the blue skies overhead, a change from the pouring rain of mid-week.

"I sweated out the week watching the weather forecasts," Mayne said. "Everything has turned out well."

Amanda and Darrin Suttles of Ironton brought their three children to the festival Saturday. "They're looking forward to the pony rides," Darrin Suttles said of children Cody, 6, Kimberly, 5, and Caitlyn, 2. "We're looking for the reptiles, too. And I like the old stuff, the old cars and wagons."

The Suttles' children got to try their hand at sand art later on at an art booth.

For Maxine and Sam Kilgore, of Huntington, W.Va., the festival was a chance to remember.

"I talked to the lady making the lye soap," Maxine Kilgore said. "We liked that; his (Sam's) mother used to make soap like that."

The festival continues through 4 p.m. today with a church service at 11 a.m., a

1 p.m. performance of Second Generation on the outdoor stage followed by the Porter Creek cloggers at 3:30.

Throughout the day there are pony rides, trolley rides, numerous craft and educational displays, health screenings and children's activities.

Some 2,500 people are expected to attend during the two-day event.