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Visit Northern Somerset County as It Was 240 Years Ago

It isn't hard to understand history when it's on full display at festival.

Sometimes there's just not enough days in the week, but every Wednesday we'll give you an idea of something to do to relax, spend time with family and just take some time for yourself.

Northern Somerset County played more of a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War than some people may realize. And this weekend, those who are curious about this area's past can step back in time at the Somerset County Park Commission's annual Lord Stirling 1770s Festival in Basking Ridge.

A key part of this festival, which takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Sunday, is authenticity. Along with re-enactors who portray local historic figures and a chance to see historic artifacts from the property, visitors have a once-a-year opportunity to explore the remains of Lord Stirling's home, where the compatriot of Gen. Washington once lived.

The festival is based at the on Lord Stirling Road, but parts of the park usually unseen are opened at the Lord Stirling's former estate.

Each comes back to life as it would have been in the late 1700s.

This year, Lord Stirling again will be spending the day at his estate. History lovers and students can ask him about his many business ventures or his successes in battle against the British.

The "general" will review his troops and visits with local craftspeople on his estate. This event promotes historical and environmental education highlighting the unsung Revolutionary War hero William Alexander, Lord Stirling, who lived in Basking Ridge and served as a Major General directly under Gen. George Washington.

Visitors can also meet a blacksmith, tinsmith, furniture maker, cooper and other trades-people of the times, all attired in replicas of 1770s clothing that is true to the period.

Crafters will make toys, lace, decorative arts and woodcarvings, and spin wool into yarn. Colonial women will demonstrate how butter was made and how simple household chores were done without the help of electricity and modern appliances. However, no crafts are sold at this entertaining and educational event.

But children can try stenciling, quill writing, making clay pots and playing colonial games, or pet sheep, goats and chickens that were staples of colonial life in the 1770s.

Guests can also sample a cup of cider and see how cider was made from a working cider press—or hop aboard the hay wagon for a ride around Lord Stirling's apple orchard.

Visitors are invited to arrive dressed the part—or to try on period style clothing and spend a few minutes in the Somerset Gaoler's wooden pillory while friends and family take photographs.  

The event is designed to provide an educational and enjoyable way to learn about colonial times and the importance of New Jersey's role in the American Revolution. Visitors can question craftspeople about their trades, tour Lord Stirling's wine cellar and enjoy the sights, sounds and aromas of a colonial style autumn festival. Listen to colonial ballads played on instruments authentic to the period.

Visit the camps of Heard's Brigade, Captain John Outwater's Militia, Past Muster and the Donegal Riflemen. Watch as the militias conduct maneuvers and children can participate in a musket drill. Meet a colonial surgeon who supported the troops. A professional Town Crier announces the events of the day and reads the Declaration of Independence.

Lord Stirling (the Scottish earldom and title acquired by William Alexander) was close friends with Washington. Stirling built his manor house around 1762 and lived there for 20 years. An archeological team sponsored by the Somerset County Park Commission excavated part of the site and has studied the recovered artifacts, which are on display each year.

Suggested donation is $4 per person. The 1770s Festival will be held rain or shine.

For more information, call the Environmental Education Center at 908-766-2489 or, for Relay Service, dial 711 for individuals with hearing impairments. 

Information on this event and other Somerset County Park Commission activities may be found on the Somerset County Park Commission website.

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