With her parasol held straight up, Hannah Eppert strolled up and down a block of Main Street during Santa-Cali-Gon Days, greeting and chatting up fairgoers who hopefully felt like they stepped back in time a bit.
Eppert was one of several historical interpreters volunteering in period costume on the Main Street block south of Lexington Avenue for Main Street 1849, a display set up to give people a glimpse into Independence’s historical roots. The city’s Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department conjured up the city block’s worth of booths and activities, something not seen at Santa-Cali-Gon in recent memory.
Speaking with the mannerisms one would hear in the time of Mayor William McCoy – who also could be found on Main Street this weekend – Eppert encouraged fairgoers to check out the booth of schoolhouse activities or the blacksmith’s works.
“They feel driven to it,” she said. “I don’t even give them a chance to say no. ‘You must come and see this!’”
McCoy, the city’s first mayor – known by many people these days as Bob Adams – explained how many people were stopping in Independence for supplies before they began the long trek West in hopes of a land or gold.
On Main Street 1849, one booth displayed many blacksmith’s works while another had knitted works, and people could pan for gold nuggets and get a portrait shot taken in period costume. An information board stood next to a wagon, and a small stage provided period-style entertainment from a number of artists over the weekend.
“It could’ve been scattered around. Instead, we said, ‘Let’s bring it all together,’” Dave Aamodt, administrator of the National Frontier Trails Museum, said as he manned the gold panning booth.
Alysa Speck, who volunteered at the information booth, said she hopes the 1849 block gave fair-goers at least some appreciation of the history behind Independence, especially if they didn’t know it before.
At least one appreciated to enough to ask about the latest news – or gossip – around town, Speck said.
“Well,” she said, recalling the conversation, “Miss Clara was seen with Fred behind the barn.”
“That’s what I heard, too,” the woman responded, “but I wanted to verify.”