GROTON -- Fifth-grade students, teachers and parents portrayed colonists for the day at Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School during the school's colonial celebration, "Alive in '75."
The weather was perfect for history lessons, 18th century music and crafts and visits from some very special re-enactors. A picnic and a walk along Main Street to First Parish Church and back filled out the school day.
Girls wearing petticoats, aprons and bonnets, carrying small baskets filled with lunch, and boys donning tri-corner hats and knickers, along with costumed teachers, arrived at school as Groton colonists in the year 1775.
Originally started by fifth-grade teacher Anne Polaski (now retired) and volunteer Dave Kimpton 25 years ago at Swallow Union, the annual event is a culminating activity in social studies that ties into fifth-grade standards and students' study of the era of the American Revolution.
Students began the day with colonial activities set up on a field behind the school that included 18th century music and dances taught by dance master Jeremy Bell, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland. His wife, Nancy, brought antique spinning wheels and wool and taught children how wool was spun into yarn to make cloth for clothing.
The Bells, of Leominster, dressed in authentic hand-stitched colonial attire, have participated in the event for four years, thanks to a grant provided by the Groton Trust Fund.
This was the first year that costumed members of the Billerica Colonial Minutemen, Bill Brimer, Norman Goyette and Richard MacKay, took part. Billerica Historical Society members Diane Douglas and Shirlene Stewart, plus Goyette, set up an authentic colonial camp with genuine artifacts and demonstrated cooking beef stew over a real fire, plus the making of lye soap, hand-dipped candles and metal button-making.
The 6th Middlesex Regiment Minutemen, John Greenwood of Pepperell, Jim Curley and James Geraghty of Chelmsford, and Dale Vedder of Worcester, educated students about life as a minuteman. The students even got to march in a drill.
At noon, everyone took to the lawn to enjoy a simple picnic lunch and cold lemonade.
After lunch, students, teachers and parents walked from the middle-school along Main Street to the Common and First Parish Church, or First Meeting House, as it was called in 1666 when first erected. There, students listened to re-enactors debate over the fight for freedom.
At the debate's conclusion, students were asked to vote by raising one hand to fight or to avoid conflict with the British.
In reality, Groton colonists who assembled in 1775 at the exact meeting place where the fifth-graders sat voted to fight.
According to fifth-grade teachers, the main priority of the colonial day was instilling in the young minds a sense and appreciation of the country's history and how difficult life was.
According to the students, the best part of the day was dressing up!