Naper Settlement’s Civil War Days won’t just be about the men this year. The annual event this weekend is focusing on the roles of women and children to offer a twist on the learning experience.
According to Donna DeFalco, marketing and sales representative, the roles women played in the war are part of this year’s new features, which organizers try to include every year to keep people coming back for more.
“We know there are people who make this an annual event, and we try to offer something new every year for people to see as well as something that shows them another piece of history,” DeFalco said. “This year we’re focusing on women and children, and offering special kids activities, as well as looking at the various roles women played during the Civil War.”
Naper Settlement’s annual event has been part of the outdoor history museum’s schedule since the early 1980s and is one of the first in Illinois each season.
“I think the success of our Civil War Days event is that from the time you walk on the 12 acres we have here at the Settlement — you’re transformed back in time,” DeFalco said. “All of the people we bring in stay in character the entire time, and they really research the characters.”
Visitors can talk with famous people such as President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant, and can even get their autographs.
“I think that kids are amazed at the authenticity of the event and that they can see and hear the cannons firing and watch the military drills,” DeFalco said. “For young people, it’s a chance to learn about history in a different way instead of out of a book.”
Visitors can enjoy this year’s emphasis on women by watching the “Interview with the First Ladies,” featuring Donna Daniels as Mary Todd Lincoln and Roberta Grenz as Varina Davis. DeFalco said that both women had similar backgrounds despite that one was from the North and the other the South.
“Each one also lost a child while their husbands were presidents,” she added.
In another offering, the program “Divided” explores Mary Todd Lincoln’s relationship with her half-sister Emilie Todd Helm, who was married to a Confederate general.
Civil War Days also will include characters portraying the famous war Gens. Robert E. Lee and Grant, as well as Gen. George Armstrong Custer.
Another highlight this year will be the “Great American Medicine Show with Music, Magic and Mirth,” which will be performed three times a day. In between shows, performer Kay Lee will teach juggling and Victorian games, and do palm readings. She will portray Polecat Annie, a character inspired by Annie Oakley.
The event also features food and shopping opportunities.