Frost Faire Next Saturday

  
Frost Faire on the Thames River in London in 1814.

The 21st annual Frost Faire will still take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, January  23 at Saratoga National Historical Park (the Battlefield) located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater.  This event is a popular winter activity for many families in our community.  This event is sponsored by the town of Stillwater and Friends of Saratoga Battlefield

All activities are free and all take place in and around the Visitor Center this year (which is a change from prior years). Inspired by Frost Faires in England (during the mini-ice age), this is an event that offers a wide variety of activities such as tubing down the Visitor Center hill (snow permitting), horse-drawn carriage rides, ongoing children’s crafts and games, contra-dancing for young and old, cannon and musket firings as part of a small Revolutionary War winter encampment, a bonfire and warm up hut with hot cocoa, and a noon nature and scavenger hunt led by an Adirondack Guide.

For inspiration, the Park Service points to the Frost Faire in England. An article in the Telegraph describes “The mid-14th century to the mid-19th century is sometimes known as the “Little Ice Age”. The Thames had frozen several times prior to 1814, with a smattering of smaller-scale fairs held on the river. In the 16th century, King Henry VIII was said to have travelled by sleigh from central London to Greenwich.”  But the 1814 frost fair was to be the most magnificent of them all. “Life poured on to the ice to drink, dance and gamble. At one stage, even an elephant was led across near Blackfriars Bridge.”  “The Thames watermen, those grizzled ragged forms immortalised by the 19th-century painter Whistler, quickly spotted a business opportunity. A group hauled a sheep on to the ice and began roasting it over a fire. To stand and watch the “Lapland Mutton” cost sixpence. When it was cooked, the meat was sold at a shilling a slice. Within a day, booths decorated with streamers and flags popped up to sell beer, gingerbread, gin and meat. By February 2, the great frost fair of 1814 had been born.”  “There is a vague memory of frost fairs in this period,” says Alex Werner, head of history collections at the Museum of London. “You would have been able to speak with your grandfather and hear memories of when the river froze. But in 1814, everybody wanted to see it. Children were hugely excited…”  You can read more here

For more information on this or other events at Saratoga National Historical Park, call the Visitor Center at 670-2985, log on to http://www.nps.gov/sara or find them on Facebook and Twitter at “@SaratogaNHP.”

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