DILLSBURG—If you happen to stroll past the historic Dill’s Tavern on Baltimore Street in Dillsburg this week, you’re likely to see students engaged in serious activities led by adults dressed in clothing reminiscent of a bygone era.
This just happens to be year two for the week-long “Colonial Kids’ Camp,” led by volunteers comprised of teachers, members of the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society and History Club students from the Northern York County School District.
The campers begin their three-hour day at 9 a.m. and engage in arts, crafts, games and exercises common to the Colonial era. This year, 13 students split into three separate groups and rotated throughout several different learning stations each morning.
On day two, a group sat around an antique dining room table and began their day working on Fraktur, a form of Pennsylvania German folk art, birth certificates with turkey feather quill pens.
Dillsburg elementary teacher Viki Wonders, dressed in Colonial-era clothing, explained how to use the pens while giving the students a brief history lesson on the Pennsylvania Dutch lettering style that was popular so many years ago.
Outside in the courtyard, the smell of smoke permeated the air as George Platts of Lewisberry instructed his group on the art of Colonial candle making.
Each boy took turns standing in front of a fire, carefully lowering a board containing long, braided wicks into a pot filled with paraffin.
“In the 1700s they used tallow from beef or sheep,” Platts said. The boys walked slowly around a bush to the other side of the station to allow their candles to cool before setting them down and grabbing another board for round two of dipping. They repeated the process many times before the candles were complete.
A few steps away in the Wheelwright’s Shop, a few children hammered nails into patterns placed atop pieces of tin, which would later be fashioned into candle holders to support the homemade candles being crafted in the courtyard. Others busied themselves with making cookie cutters in the metal shop.
Each day the children learn several new aspects of Colonial life in the historic hands-on workshops. Later in the week, they’ll try their hands at making homemade sauerkraut, herb tea and cookies.
Peggy Williams and Cathy Cavanaugh joined together last year to approach the Dillsburg Kiwanis Club for seed money. “We wanted to get it started, even if we only had a few children, but we started out with about the same amount last year and it’s going well,” said Cavanaugh, camp director.
The pair are attempting to bring in new crafts each year for returning students.
“The only repeat this year is the candle making, cookie cutters and the clothing,” said Cavanaugh, referring to the wide variety of Colonial-era regalia they allow the children to don for keepsake pictures as gifts to parents. The pair envisions expanding the camp to include a wider variety of age groups in the future.
This is Dillsburg student Alexandra Sherman’s second year at the camp. “I really like history, so for me it’s really interesting,” she said.
Several older students were also on site to assist campers with their projects. Wellsville resident Seth Hawkins, 15, learned about the camp through his sister who is a member of the history club at school.
Recent grad Erin Monko of Dillsburg also learned about the camp through the History Club at Northern.
“l like getting involved with the tavern and think it’s a lot of fun,” he said. He joined fellow Dillsburg resident Theron Peters, 19, who is now attending the California University of Pennsylvania and is volunteering during his time off. “I was involved last year and enjoyed it, so I decided to return since I love history and being involved with the Inn,” he said.
At the culmination of the camp, the students will fete their parents with a grand reception, complete with home-made herbal tea and cookies baked onsite in the beehive oven, while they demonstrate everything they learned throughout the week.