Creating holiday decorations at Glacial Park

RINGWOOD – With large umbrellas pulled low over their heads, a group of visitors huddled together in the back of a horse-drawn wagon for the short ride from the Wiedrich barn to the Powers-Walker House at Glacial Park.

Inside the barn, a couple of dozen people milled around various ornament-making stations – children, teens and their parents all focused intently on their creations.

They were among more than 120 people who ventured out in Saturday’s chill and rain to check out the McHenry County Conservation District’s Historical Holidays Open House.

Education program coordinator Kim Compton said the event offered visitors a chance to see and make the sort of ornaments that people crafted before commercial ornaments were available.

They also made Victorian silhouettes, a craft popular from the 1700s into the 1900s, she said.

“We’ve done a lot of these programs, and they’re always so much fun,” said Denise Mercuri of Wonder Lake as she and her son and daughter, Elise and Hunter White, 10 and 9, respectively, prepared to leave with their friend, Amber Elliott, 11.

Their new ornaments and silhouette pictures in tow, they bundled up before making their exit.

“We did everything but the star,” Mercuri said, referring to the most complex of the craft-making projects – a multi-pointed, three-dimensional, paper German star.

“Did you tuck the last one you folded over under the first one?” asked Chuck Howenstine, the volunteer leading the star-making group.

It took most people at least 20 minutes to go from long, narrow strips of paper to the carefully woven, folded and curled end result, which then was dipped in paraffin wax for durability.

“It’s interesting,” said Bev Calahan of Crystal Lake, as she and her 18-year-old daughter, Shannon, pulled, folded and poked white paper strips while dad, Bill Calahan, looked on.

Across the room, 7-year-old Larkin Murphy of Fox Lake looped red yarn through holes punched in a stiff white paper circle.

“Mom, a little help?” she said, looking up at Corey Murphy, whose husband, Chris Murphy, and son, 15-month-old Kelton, also attended.

At another station, milkweed pods, seeds, wooden disks and the like were transformed into holiday decorations with the help of volunteer Bill Scarlett of McHenry.

And down the hill at the Powers-Walker House, visitors enjoyed a glimpse of what a mid-1800s family’s life was like at Christmas time.

“I just picked the wild rye and made the popcorn and they’ve been stringing it up,” said Gail Brown of Richmond as she portrayed homesteader Mary Powers and showed off a tree decorated with all manner of nature’s finery. “There are sliced walnuts and fresh-water mussel shells … it’s fun to be festive.”

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