Finally I have sometime to sit down and consider a few conversations I have had recently.
Back in mid-May I attended LLCC's "Welcome Visitors," which was the lead off to Community Learning's intensive Interpreter training week. (http://www.llcc.edu/commed/CommunityLearning/tabid/989/Default.aspx) The evening was very interesting, and the speakers discussed the role in customer service at historical sites. I wish I could have participated in the whole week of classes, but that weekend was already booked.
This was followed by Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org), and conversations with many of the volunteers about what all had needed to be done to prepare for the festival.
I had had a little sample of the preparation, since I had been out that week to help dust, and I have to salute all of those who had been at it continually.
All of this is on top of keeping the site open weekly, and for private functions, such as weddings.
Later, thinking over the week, I considered how fragile the support is for many of our historical sites, since so many of the volunteers are retired individuals; many of whom are elderly. The main thing driving them is their great love of history, and their particular site.
It's not just Clayville that faces this, but many of the smaller sites, where the main bulk of their volunteers are in their later years. And the work they do isn't just talking to people and taking them on tours - it can require cleaning and some heavy work.
Now I'll grant that for Clayville's many festivals there is help of all ages, but the normal, weekly, part falls to just a few people.
What happens when they can't do it anymore?
Who will step in?
Places such as Clayville, the Elijah Iles House, and the Grand Army of the Republic - to name a few - are staffed by dedicated people, but the demands can be hard. These individuals strive daily to see the stories of these places told, and that the sites live on for other generations to know where history happened.
It also made me wonder if we couldn't create a youth volunteer program for historic sites, such as what is done with the Henson Robinson Zoo (http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/page.php?8) and Lincoln Memorial Gardens (http://www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org/programsatthegarden.html)? Maybe there is one. Hopefully there is. And if not, one should be created as we need one to train future custodians of these sites.
But foremost, I offer a challenge - take some time this summer to help at a historic site. They need people to help keep them clean and ready for visitors.
And to preserve the property.
Plus you are helping the city by showing our many attractions in their best light to visitors.
Recently I've noted that a lot of folks are searching for white fox folklore, and realized I didn't have much to offer on the site. Which seemed a shame since my website is White Fox Stories, and I do love foxes.
So a little web searching allowed me to discover a nice retelling of "The White Fox Wedding" from Tales of Old Japan.
The web site is - http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_folklore/whitefoxwedding.shtml
Along with that I have added a Fox Bibliography to the site.
The weather was wonderfully cooperative for both the Central Illinois St. Andrews' Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/), and for Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org).
On Saturday I spent the morning at the Highland Games' Heritage Tent. They had an very nice set up, with banks of computers for individuals to research Ancestry.com. Along with this attraction, author, Wendy Wilson (http://wendywilsonbook.com/), was signing her book, A Touch of Irish, and there was a talk by Tara McClellan McAndrew (author of Stories of Springfield) on, "The Irish in Springfield, Il." She is at
Ms. McAndrew's talk was very interesting, and Ms. Wilson's puppy, Zero, was quite the hit with everyone.
The high point for me was when one young lady, and later her older brother, came to listen to tales. The young lady was probably about 13 or 14, and so for the first round I told, "Tam Lin," and later, when she and her brother came back, I told "The Selkie Bride," and "The Elderly Seal." It is always lovely when teenagers, and young adults, take a interesting in storytelling.
Sunday saw me out at Clayville, and after finding a nice, shady, tree to place my chair I settled to tell tales (and occasionally have saltine crackers with homemade butter).
The 114th Cavalry was in fine form with their western skirmishes, and there was a steady crowd. My tree was right by the main route so I was able to tell my stories to people passing by. I often invited them to come, "Share my shade, the breeze, and a tale."
I wish I had had more time to explore as I could hear the drums of the Native dancers, and caught a glimpse of the array of vendors. But by the time I was through I was just warm enough to be ready to pack up and held for some dinner.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.