Fort Frederick's 18th Century Market Fair turns 25
BIG POOL — White tents fill the field next to Fort Frederick, as smoke rises from campfires and traders barter with soldiers camped for the weekend.
That’s the scene that will greet visitors for the 25th annual 18th Century Market Fair that gets underway Thursday at Fort Frederick State Park.
The yearly event offers a chance to step back in time alongside hundreds of reenactors and sutlers at the park and its historic stone fort through Sunday.
“They’ll be transported back to the 18th century and they’ll see vendors of 18th-century items,” said Bob Study, assistant park manager and the park’s representative on the event planning committee. “They’ll also see campers. There will be several hundred people who will be camping here.”
The event, organized by the park and the Friends of Fort Frederick State Park, typically draws 6,000 to 8,000 people over the four days, Study said.
In the shadow of the fort, built in 1756 during the French and Indian War, hundreds of reenactors, sutlers and artisans descend on the park each year, transforming it into a bustling market that’s become known around the country and has a good reputation in living history circles.
Sutlers, or civilian merchants who followed an army and sold provisions to soldiers, will have numerous period-appropriate items for sale, including pottery, tin and copper wares, clothing, material and patterns, books, fireplace and cooking hardware, historic firearms, paintings, and lanterns and other camp gear.
Each item is authentic, required to adhere to the craftsmanship and design of items created by hand between the years of 1740 and 1790.
Study, who has been involved with the event since 2010, said it continues to grow every year.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “The fact that people still see the importance in history. The Friends provide a service to the public by having these things available to buy, but we also have museums that come here to do their purchasing for their historic events. They come as far away as North Carolina.”
Proceeds from the event go back to the Friends group, which provides supplemental money to support the park and sponsor yearly programming, like the fair, reenactments and other historical weekends.
Among other festivities, visitors will be able to enjoy free entertainment and demonstrations. There will also be a raffle for a handcrafted powder horn, which is a container for gunpowder.
“It’s one of a kind. It’s just amazing,” Study said.
As it's grown, the fair has become one of the bigger ones available to 18th-century artisans. Study said they see many of the same faces year after year and it’s become like a big family reunion.
In celebration of the 25th year, participating reenactors and sutlers will receive a special medallion.
“This is a milestone for any event going on this long,” Study said. “We just hope that everybody will come out and check it out.”
Top photo: Master horner John DeWald, right, talks about his wares with Jeff Gier, who also does horn work, during the 18th Century Market Fair at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool. (Herald-Mail file photo)