By Mary Kay Ruwe
Docent Board President
George Mason’s Gunston Hall’s Colonial Day is a bi-annual banquet of living history that engages all the senses in an exuberant evocation of 18th century plantation life. In addition to touring the mansion, an architectural tapestry treaded with English Rococo, Neoclassical, Palladian, and Chinoiserie elements, costumed interpreters guide young visitors about, teaching them to write with quill pens in the School House; to churn butter in the Kitchen Yard, to play colonial games like nine pins in the Garden, to make sachets stuffed with fragrant herbs like mint and lavender from the Herb Garden, to witness Riflemen and Musicians milling about, and engage with Hearth Cooks in the open-hearth Kitchen, all in the company of crowds of fellow students.
Visitors enjoy a sample of gingercakes and cider served in the open-field ‘Tavern’, are schooled in 18th century deportment by costumed Historical Characters, get their hands dirty with archeologists, listen to storytellers spinning tales of old, and wander amid 200-year-old boxwoods in George Mason’s Formal Garden with a panoramic view of the Potomac River.
The Plantation rings with the sights and sounds of history come alive. It’s a teacher’s paradise as school children engage in unique hands-on learning experiences, witness costumed characters, and enjoy a colonial experience brought to them by Gunston Hall Docents, Volunteers, and Staff.
By the end of the day, all participants share a sense of fulfillment and fatigue. The kids board their buses to collapse in their seats after a day of lively learning, while the volunteers return to their homes to collapse after a day of ushering children back in time. All relish a sense of satisfaction from sharing history through the eyes of one of the beloved Founding Fathers - George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Planter and Patriot.