Museum Director Musings: Victorian Fair, Day Two

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It was another warm, though enjoyable, day at the Homestead as we hosted the second day of our 2017 Victorian Fair.  Initial tallies indicate the attendance was about the same as yesterday, in the ballpark of 1,300 visitors, though it seemed like there were more.  That could, perhaps, be a different flow with regard to how many guests were on site at any given time.



We had another set of performances from the Philadelphia Quadrille Band, performing authentic polkas, waltzes, quadrilles and other tunes from the era, while the Yesteryears Dancers, dressed in period clothing, demonstrated dancing and encouraged audience participation.


There were also presentations on ladies’ fashion by Natalie Meyer, which also involved audience members being invited to the stage to be dressed by Natalie as she explained the intricacies of clothing in the Victorian period.


Later in the day, Walter Nelson, appearing as Dr. Malatesta, explained how the “science” of phrenology examined the shape of the skull and perceived “organs” of the brain to explain a subject’s personality.  This, too, meant that audience members had their heads examined to learn who they really are.


Another popular presentation was given by magician Misty Lee, as she discussed the history of spiritualism and seances, which were highly popular during the Victorian period.


Both days also featured a pie-eating contest, as gastronomic competition took center stage out on the lawn near the main parking lot on two separate occasions.


As with Saturday, there were hands-on crafts, demonstrators, historical organizations and societies, self-guided tours of portions of the Workman House and La Casa Nueva, and more.  Four food trucks provided a range of eatables and refreshments for our visitors, as well.


In all, it was a great weekend, during which guests learned a great deal about life in the 19th century and, hopefully, compared what they discovered with their own lives in the first decades of the 21st century.


An event of this scale cannot take place without the talents and dedication of my colleagues on the paid staff, including all of our public programs staff members who spend months on events of this scope.  Particular attention should be given to some of the new elements introduced this year.


Jennifer Scerra, our programs coordinator, came up with the idea of using historic photographs from our collection as admission stickers and a display board gave some background on the images, whether of the subjects or the photographer.  Public Programs Assistant Isis Quan did some research in the late 19th century health book, Vitalogy (fans of the 90s [1990s, not 1890s] band Pearl Jam well know that title!), to create with Jennifer’s input an exercise area for visitors.


Thanks also to collections coordinator Michelle Villarreal for picking up the slack after the departure earlier this month of one of our colleagues and planning and carrying out displays in both historic houses for hundreds of our visitors to enjoy.

Finally, we had many of our museum’s devoted volunteers as well as volunteers from community schools and organizations helping out with house tours, information, admission stickers, crafts and games, and many other areas.  Without them, the event could simply not be carried out.

It was a fantastic Victorian Fair and we hope that the 2,600 or so of you who came out on one or both days had a great time, too!

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