Part of the park consists of a historically re-created village called, Deseret Village, similar in concept to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts or Williamsburg in Virginia, only this village is a recreated mid-19th-century western frontier pioneer setting. (Think Little House on the Prairie era.)
The buildings consist of both re-created and original structures built by early Mormon settlers in Utah that have been moved to the site.
We’ve visited the village in summers past and my kids have always loved it. Last year we visited our cousins volunteering there and this summer my children begged to do the same.
This volunteering including dressing up in period-style clothes and greeting visitors for 4 hours, once a week. I have to admit I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the idea (hello, who’s the one that needs to track down those pioneer clothes!) as they were, but figured I’d better run with it since A) volunteering somewhere worthwhile together is a good thing and B) there probably won’t be many more summers where my kids ask to leave ipods, and computers, and the likes behind and dress like a pioneer.
Well, it turned out to be an awesome experience to do together. First and foremost (and kind of obvious) getting away from all those tech-y distractions. I feel like so often in the summer I’m saying, “Okay, turn off the screens and go play outside” ad nauseum. (To myself included.) Here, no screens and hence, no need to tell anyone to turn them off. Perfect.
One of the surprising things I loved about the experience is that it gave my kids a lot of autonomy. When my kids were little, I didn’t like the idea of them roaming far from home alone. While that is totally reasonable for little kids, as they’ve grown bigger – esp my boys – I want to encourage them to do that more – go exploring without me. I think that’s something that’s missing from many of our over-protected kids’ lives – the freedom to roam. Sadly, since we don’t live in Mayberry, it’s hard to just turn them loose all day.
But while we were volunteering at Deseret Village I could do that! (It was even encouraged by the staff because the cute kids in their pioneer garb roaming through the village added the sweetest ambiance to the place.) It was so great to let my kids roam a fairly large area and do what they wanted to do – without me hovering over them. Above is the house we were ‘stationed’ at. I spent most of the time on that front porch and my kids would go visit the animals at the petting farm, or “pan for gold” in the mountain-man camp, or go buy sweets at the mercantile store. All by themselves. It was this great little taste of Mayberry. And it has made them more confident in their explorations without me. And it has helped me have the courage to let them do it. 🙂
I was so lucky that the house we were assigned to has a quilting project going on every summer. Each year the volunteers at the house hand-piece a quilt top using worn-out pioneer costumes from years past. It felt pretty make-it-do authentic. This year we started paper-piecing these 9-patch diamonds. I loved it.
We also started hand-quilting the hexagon quilt the volunteers had pieced the summer before. Sitting on that shady porch hand-quilting, visiting with my sister-in-law who I rarely see, but enjoy so much, with my kids out roaming and exploring in the fresh air. It was so great! And so therapeutic as I was dealing with all my thyroid nonsense. (Plus it was fun to see that little guy so earnestly want to learn to quilt!)
It was a good reminder of why a slower paced life is a good thing. Granted, we weren’t trying to survive by the sweat of our brow – our main task was to great guests, explain the history of the house where we were, etc. But that was fun too! One of my favorite visitors was a woman from Italy who is a fellow quilter. All of it was a good reminder as to why a slower-paced life, not to mention visiting with old and new friends in real life, is a great thing for our well-being.
And now a payoff for wading through all those words: Quilts! I have some good ones to share. Also housed at the park is a museum of the Utah Quilt Guild with a wonderful library of antique quilts.
Obviously some beautiful treasures. There was also a quilt made with appliqued squirrel pelts. (I’m not making that up.) I took a picture but refrained from posting. 🙂 (Don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it sounds. Think just the fur part of the squirrel.)
Update: You can see more of the quilts in this post (including the infamous squirrel quilt, if you are curious. 😉 )
I LOVED this star quilt. I think this is the inspiration for my next paper-piecing project!
Coincidentally, to enhance my pioneer experience this summer, I also got to pull a handcart on a 20 mile, 3-day “trek” through some dusty wilderness, re-enacting the 19th-century Mormon pioneer migration across the plains with a bunch of the greatest teenagers I’d ever met. This experience was to give these kids the opportunity to get away from electronic distractions, do something that pushed them out of their comfort zone a little, and give them an appreciation for sacrifices made for them by fore-bearers. And wow, those kids rose to the occasion.
The reason we went is that my husband and I were asked to be a “Ma and Pa” for a “family” or group of kids. Our oldest daughter participated as well. I’ll be honest – it as hard. And we were nasty, sweaty, dirty by the end. But it was a great experience. I came away with a deepened appreciation for those who made sacrifices for their faith – my faith – from which I benefit every day.
No matter what our heritage, there are people in our past who made sacrifices for us to have the comforts, freedoms, and opportunities that we have. It was an enriching thing for me, and my kids, to learn a more about and appreciate that heritage a little more. And to take some time to realize how enjoyable life is at a slower pace. So, whether we do it again or not (though I suspect we might), I’m so glad I learned to appreciate just turning off the gadgets, slowing down, and hanging out with the people I love most.