History in the fields, returned
● By J. Chambless
Colonial demonstrations are a traditional part of Chadds Ford Days.
By Richard L. Gaw
Since the 1960s, those residents of southern Chester County and beyond who enjoyed their history along with the gentle accompaniment of artisans referred to Chadds Ford Days the way everyone regards his or her birthday.
It arrives every year.
For more than five decades, the Chadds Ford Historical Society has been preserving history and educating the community about life the way it used to be in Chester County, and the centerpiece of that mission had been Chadds Ford Days, a two-day celebration that invited thousands of visitors every year to enjoy the sights and sounds of American history.
While the decision by the Historical Society to shelve Chadds Ford Days in 2018 disappointed many of those whose first weekend in September was always marked by the festival, the one-year respite allowed the Society to rethink, retool and redefine what they imagined Chadds Ford Days ought to be – and when it should be.
For years, the festival had been scheduled near the anniversary of the historic Battle of the Brandywine, which took place on Sept. 11, 1777, but the strict code of honor slowly began to have its drawbacks. Attendance at Chadds Ford Days began to drop, largely due to its attempt to compete with two other major festivals – the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival and the Brandywine Festival of the Arts, held in Wilmington, which were both scheduled during the same weekend.
The 2019 Chadds Ford Days will be held on Sept. 14 and 15, and will not interfere with either of its competing festivals, which will both be held Sept. 7 and 8.
“We made the decision to jump the dates of the festival up a week, which still honors the Battle of the Brandywine, but does not compete with other festivals in the area,” said Jason Greenplate, who has been the executive director of the Chadds Ford Historical Society since January. “The Mushroom Festival is our friend and our neighbor, and we wish them as much success as they can have. The decision benefits everyone, from those who put on the many events at that time, to the people who don’t have to choose which festival to attend in a particular weekend.
“We didn't feel like we were losing any historical significance by moving it up a week, and perhaps it will be a little cooler outside, as well.”
In addition to having the weekend of Sept. 14-15 largely to itself this year, Chadds Ford Days will be demonstrating a larger commitment to the “history” component of the event. While this year's festival will continue to showcase the work of area artisans, there will be a renewed emphasis on Revolutionary War re-enactments, encampments, colonial crafting and of course, visits to the John Chads House and Spring House. The festival will also invite several other area museums and historical organizations, that will allow them a showcase to promote their historical projects.
“My background is in historical interpretation and education, so that's been my focus here since Day 1,” Greenplate said. “My goal is to work with the Society to share the history of John Chads and Chadds Ford with the public, whether they're visiting on a random Tuesday, or whether they're attending one of our major fundraising events.
“The main reason we brought back Chadds Ford Days is that we feel like we're an institution in the Brandywine Valley, and people will again be able to set their watch to this new tradition, every year.”
Chadds Ford Days will take place on Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about the Chadds Ford Historical Society, visit www.chaddsfordhistory.org, or visit the Society at the Barns Visitors Center, 1736 Creek Road, Chadds Ford.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.