Explore the crafts and harvest traditions of one of North Carolina’s largest plantations at the Historic Stagville Harvest Festival, Oct. 20, noon to 5 p.m. Enjoy demonstrations by master craftsmen, hands-on activities for all ages, and music by artists from the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Admission is $5 per person, in support of the site’s programs and mission. Tickets are available at the door.
During the afternoon, demonstrators and vendors will showcase the kinds of work done by enslaved craftsmen. Historic cooking demonstrations will fill the air with delicious smells and wood smoke. Interpreters will share stories of life and work during autumn. Visitors can observe blacksmithing, basket weaving, textile work, historic paints and dried gourd art. You can compete for glory in crosscut saw competitions, press apples in the cider press or learn to make rope!
Get your hands dirty and learn historic brickmaking. Children and adults can try the method once used to make more than 100,000 bricks for the slave quarters at Horton Grove. At the Bennehan House, visitors can help paint chairs in their historic colors, while learning how to mix and make historic paints. Tour the kitchen garden to explore the foodways and gardening of the plantation.
Take mule cart rides at Horton Grove, and discover how mules were so essential for farm work and transportation in 1850. The cart ride will bring visitors to Stagville’s Great Barn, a massive mule barn. Triangle Land Conservancy will also lead a nature walk through the Horton Grove Nature Preserve.
At 1 p.m., the Branchettes will perform gospel songs and hymns rooted in the African-American musical traditions of congregational hymn singing. At 2:30 p.m., Big Ron Hunter, known as “the world’s happiest bluesman,” will perform live. At 4 p.m., visitors can join in an interactive set of drum and dances from the West African traditions preserved and protected by enslaved communities at Stagville.
Stagville is the former site of one of the largest plantations in North Carolina, owned by the Bennehan Cameron family and home to over 900 enslaved people. Historic Stagville State Historic Site interprets the lives of hundreds of individuals who experienced slavery at Stagville, as well as the story of the Bennehan-Cameron family. Historic Stagville preserves a fraction of the buildings and land from the plantation, including the Bennehan house (1787-1799), four houses of enslaved families (1851), and a giant barn (1860).
For more information, call 919-620-0120. The site is located at 2821 Old Oxford Road, Durham, NC 27712. It is nine miles north of downtown Durham, about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill, and about 45 minutes from Raleigh. It is part of the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.