Youths make history come alive
Although the adults were the highlight of the Chautauqua Days, the children gave their best effort to portray famous Baldwin City figures Friday night.
A group of 11 local children dressed up and acted as if they were their character in front of the audience Friday. Their performances impressed Ann Birney, Ride into History co-worker, who helped the Youth Chautauquans.
"I thought they did a really fine job," Birney said. "I was very impressed. I really was."
The children also enjoyed performing on stage in front of nearly 100 spectators.
"It was fun, but it got a little hot with all of these heavy clothes on," Austin Kraus said. "I was a bit nervous at first, but I got used to it."
The thought of not only portraying a famous person, but also teaching about their life appealed to Morgan Linder.
"It was really fun, because we got to actually perform, but we were teaching others history," Linder said.
All of the children chose different reasons for selecting their character to portray. Some of those included knowing their character was related to someone they knew or just because they liked baseball.
Kraus chose John Baldwin, who the city is named after, but he wasn't sure what Baldwin was quite famous for.
"I chose him because his last name is Baldwin and I figured he would have some significance to the town," Kraus said. "Once I learned about him, I was pretty much right."
Owen Tuckfield portrayed George Malicky, a minor league baseball player and Baldwin community member. Tuckfield met Malicky's son before he performed Friday.
"It was fun," Tuckfield said. "His son was my grandpa's friend. I just met him today."
Morgan Linder chose a relative of the late Katharine Kelley, a longtime Baldwin resident and historian who died nearly two years go. Linder's character was Martha Cutter Kelley Gill.
Other children chose their characters for various reasons. They also chose to participate in the Chautauqua Days for different reasons.
"I like to learn about historical things and it sounded really fun," Kraus said. "I am sort of used to researching stuff for special projects in school. Historical people are a bit harder, but I still found lots of records on him."
The children began selecting a character and researching them at the beginning of last week. They each prepared a presentation that was no longer than five minutes long, although most were shorter.
Birney said the week began in chaos, but by the end the children were working hard and diligently to prepare their speech.
"In our experiences, they don't even know who they are going to do on the first day," Birney said. "By the second day, it's just chaos. You would never believe they are going to perform in three more days.
"They are so focused on what they are doing," Birney said. "One of the things that I enjoy about these workshops is how hard they work and how focused they are. It really inspires the people that see them working that hard."
After their presentations Friday, the children all stood on stage for a question-and-answer session with the audience. Questions regarding why they chose their character and if they would do this again were asked.
They were also asked what the most difficult task was during their week of preparation.
"My hardest part was going through all of the files and trying to find stuff," Rachel Bezek said. Bezek portrayed Lillian Scott, clerk of the all-woman city council.
Christian Linder said the hardest part for him was getting dressed. He was Milton Baldwin, son of John Baldwin and first professor of Baker University.
Grace Mader, who portrayed Anna Hemminger Hornberger, a farm wife of a German husband, gave the crowd a laugh with her reply to the question.
"For me it was probably standing up here waiting for all of these questions to come," Mader said.
The final question asked was what was the most surprising thing each one found out about their famous person.
"The most surprising thing I found out about my character is that he has to wear so much heavy clothes," Kraus said. "Also that he was really old. He was 85 when he died."
Brenna Johnson found out something about her character, but also couldn't find valuable information. She portrayed Susan Shelby Magoffin, an early Santa Fe Trail traveler and journalist.
"I found out that servants unpacked her bed at night," Johnson said. "But I couldn't find anything about her childhood. I couldn't even find the town she was born in."
The two wise cracks came from C. Linder and Mader again.
"The most surprising thing to me was that my dad looked liked Abe Lincoln and his wife looked like a boy," Christian Linder said.
"Probably that she had 10 kids, I mean, who has 10 kids," Mader said.