I recently visited the Museum of Appalachia; it had been several years since I had last been, which is why, when I saw they had their annual sheep shearing days coming up and tickets were a great price, we rounded up the whole family and made a day of it!
Of course, we had the usual roadblocks: it was supposed to rain all day, we arrived two hours later than we meant to because the baby took a shockingly long nap, and the baby needed changing before we could even make it in the gate! But we pushed on, just as parents of small children always do. Luckily, the rain held off all day so we had perfect overcast spring weather — cloudy and not too hot. The event was offered on three Fridays this spring, and we bought tickets for the last one in mid-May hoping to miss field trip crowds. There was a fair amount of people, but not so many that you couldn’t see and do everything you wanted. It really was a perfect day to go.
The first thing we noticed was how well organized our arrival was.
People were stationed at the entrance to the parking field and directed us to open spots, so there was no confusion as to where to park. Then, they had a wagon coming around every few minutes to pick people up and take them to the museum entrance (for those who haven’t been, it’s a large, rustic outdoor museum with several buildings). We opted to walk since we had the stroller, but they did say they would put it on the wagon if we wanted, which was very nice! Once inside, we showed our online tickets and received stickers saying we were there for the event. Somehow, my five-year-old ended up with everybody’s sticker on him, and I later almost tossed a shirt with five stickers into the wash. I had called ahead to ask what the best mode of transportation was for the baby, and they said strollers or wagons were fine, so we brought the jogging stroller. I don’t think an umbrella stroller or something with small wheels would cut it since there is a lot of walking over grass and gravel. In fact, when we walked through the cabin exhibits, we had to leave the stroller behind to go up little hills and stairs.
The sheep shearing was from 9am to 3pm, so there was plenty of time to see it. They do one sheep shearing at a time and then pile up all the wool over the fence so everyone can see and touch it if they want!
That was our first stop and it did not disappoint!
I was amazed at how each attraction kept my five-year-old’s attention! All the exhibitors were so kind and happy to answer any questions, in addition to the displays and information they had ready. It was clear that part of what they loved about their craft was sharing it with people who wanted to learn, whether those people were under 10 or over 70, and anywhere in between. Several of them also had products available for purchase at great prices.
The exhibits we saw included:
- Sheep shearing
- A sawmill where kids got to keep a little block of pine
- Handmade wooden toys
- Carved apple faces that when dried, looked liked sweet little old people
- Sassafras tea making
- Quilt crafts
- Hand crank sewing machine that kids were able to turn
- Scottish sheep herding with border collies (one of our favorites!)
- Pottery wheel and clay for kids to make whatever they wanted
- Folk singing on the large outdoor stage
We also went into almost every carefully preserved cabin. It’s so neat to think about the families that lived in them and imagine what their lives were like. An impressive amount of history was written down and preserved in these homes, church, and schoolhouse. It’s also fun when you take your kids’ grandparents who are native Appalachians and they can tell things like, “I remember seeing an outhouse just like that on my grandpa’s farm!” We really aren’t too far removed from the time when people worked a living out of this land and made everything they used. I had the thought several times that kids and adults today couldn’t hack it on these homesteads where you worked from sunup to sundown. It really gives you an appreciation for the generations that came before us! It also makes you wonder if we haven’t lost some of our opportunities to be inventive and creative by having everything so easy when it comes to technology and entertainment.
We enjoyed lunch at the small restaurant on site, which offered traditional country cookin’. Those beans and cornbread really hit the spot! Then, we wandered around the store for quite while — it had so many neat things to see and buy. Did you know our very own Museum of Appalachia in Norris is a Smithsonian affiliate? We also spent quite a long time watching the two resident peacocks put on a show with their fabulous feathers. Once we felt like we had seen everything, we headed out and went to dinner at nearby Harrison’s in Clinton.