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Founders’ Day opens door to the past

Soap carving is a crowd favorite each year at O’Fallon’s Founders’ Day.

Soap carving is a crowd favorite each year at O’Fallon’s Founders’ Day.

To honor its humble beginnings, the city of O’Fallon will hold its annual Founders’ Day and Garden Expo from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on May 7 in Fort Zumwalt Park, 1000 Jessup Lane.

Visitors to O’Fallon can step back in time as the city celebrates life like it was in the late 1800s.

Founders’ Day features a mix of hands-on activities and demonstrations showcasing 19th-century skills, such as blacksmithing, cow-milking, finger-weaving, beekeeping and more.

“It’s really celebrating the history of how O’Fallon started,” festival coordinator Jennifer Hoisington said.

Kids are invited to try their hands at soap carving and cattle-roping, as well as making souvenir crafts to take home. In addition to the hands-on fun, storyteller Steve McPhail will portray pioneer hero Johnny Appleseed during several performances throughout the day. “Appleseed” also will be walking around throughout the day, interacting with guests in character.

The Louis and Clark Fife and Drum Corps also will perform throughout the day.

New this year is a petting zoo, featuring bunnies, chickens and other animals.

Admission, parking and all activities are free, and handmade goods and concessions will be available for sale.

The Garden Expo portion of the event kicks off at 10 a.m. with an Arbor Day Ceremony featuring O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy. Guests can plant seedlings, and the first 100 guests will get a free seedling of their own to take home.

Vendors will have folk arts and crafts, garden décor and live plants for sale, and concessionaires will have food for sale.

The combined event also marks the opening of tours for Fort Zumwalt and the Heald Home. With the exception of May 8, the historic structures are open for touring on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from May through September. Tours take place from noon-3 p.m. on those days.

The Heald Home recently was renovated, according to Hoisington, and the revamped interior features storyboards to walk guests through the history of the location.

Tours will be available at the Founders’ Day and Garden Expo at a cost of $5 for adults. Tours are free for kids 11 and younger, when accompanied by an adult.

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