MARION COUNTY, W.Va. (WBOY) — Wednesday saw Pricketts Fort State Park hold its second Colonial Kids Day event of the summer, where children can learn more about living as a settler during the 18th century.

The day featured activities like bookmaking, historical blacksmithing and 18th century toys and games.

Built in 1774, the fort wasn’t built for military use, but rather as a safe place for settlers to turn to in the event of an attack from Native Americans.

Historical blacksmith Ian Vandegrift works on a pair of tines for a rotisserie

The seasonal employees that work the fort seem to enjoy the event just as much as the kids and parents who attend.

Ian Vandegrift graduated high school earlier this year, and what was supposed to be just a summer job turned into his new occupation as a historical blacksmith at the fort. Vandegrift uses historically accurate methods to forge a variety of items from candlesticks to bread toasters and enjoys teaching history to the kids who really get engaged.

“The best thing about Kid’s Day is bringing in the new interest. A lot of people in school, they talk about this stuff, they talk about this period in history, but it’s not the same as coming here and seeing it. They’ll usually all enjoy it but sometimes you find the select few who really get into this,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift said his favorite thing about working at the fort is being able to teach the history of the park. He also said that kids will often relate things to what they see in popular culture, like the show Forged in Fire, a blacksmithing game show where smiths will compete to make the best weapons in front of a team of judges.

Katie Donnelly is another employee of the park who works as a historic interpreter. Donnelly got her start at the fort in 2009 as a volunteer and became a seasonal employee in 2017.

Donnelly focused her time during Wednesday’s event educating kids on the fur trade that was prevalent in the area during the 1700s. Beaver, deer and bear pelts were traded for items such as salt, gunpowder, lead and other items that were not easily manufactured by a single person.

“My favorite part is getting to see the kids engage in history. This is a very hands-on day for kids, they get to play the games, touch the furs, they got to do some of the shores they would have been helping out with on the frontier, and that hands-on experience for them is what’s making history come to life,” Donnelly said.

Future Colonial Kids Day events will be held on the following days:

  • July 13
  • July 27
  • Aug. 10

Registration is not required to attend. For more information on Pricketts Fort State Park and their upcoming events, visit their website here.