Lifestyle

Court & Market Days Festival commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is putting on another fabulous event on Saturday, June 2nd  — the Court & Market Days Festival — from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at Turner Pavilion & Park in downtown Harrisonburg.

Historically, people would travel to downtown Harrisonburg once a month to hear political speeches, complete business transactions, and purchase goods from local merchants. The Court & Market Days Festival, founded in 2004 by Bob Privott, was designed to recreate this aspect of life in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County during the mid-nineteenth century and partners with the  Harrisonburg Farmers Market to replicate this lively market atmosphere.

An artisan re-enactor at the Court & Market Days Festival. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

As a newcomer to the area, I attended the festival six years ago to learn about the history of this county. What a great experience it was! I’ve been coming back every year since; not just as a spectator, but also as a re-enactor, organizer, director, assistant, and roadie. The intimate atmosphere of the event transplanted me back through time as I learned about the crafts and trades of the 1800s and met characters that once walked the streets of the city, skillfully portrayed by historical re-enactors. All aspects of the festival were developed and produced by volunteers, and I was so amazed to see local residents who cared about their history and came together to share their heritage with their neighbors and visitors from afar.

Re-enactors at the Court & Market Days Festival. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

I am proud to announce that this year’s event will include a special focus on the Civil War era, in honor of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, and feature a special appearance by the Virginia 150 HistoryMobile and a Civil War encampment by the 10th Virginia Infantry.

Civil War encampment by the 10th Virginia Infantry. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

The HistoryMobile draws together stories from all over Virginia and uses state-of-the-art technology and immersive exhibit spaces to present individual stories of the Civil War and Emancipation from the viewpoints of those who experienced it—young and old, enslaved and free, soldiers and civilians. The imprint of the Civil War can be found on almost every inch of Virginia, and visitors are inspired and encouraged to explore this abundance of history through the HistoryMobile.

I encourage you to attend and enjoy the myriad of activities that will be available at the festival, including:

  • Living history re-enactors
  • Artisan demonstrations
  • Period music by the Shenandoah Valley Minstrels
  • “Virginia Reel” Dance demonstration
  • Food and craft vendors
  • Mini-lecture series
  • Covered wagon rides
  • Special activities and hands-on exhibits just for kids

Covered wagon rides at the Court & Market Days Festival. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

I’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Alicia Mooney is a member of the Court & Market Days Steering Committee.

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