Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Holiday Event Mixes Christmas, Living History

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Holiday Event Mixes Christmas, Living History

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROL CHILDERS, Times-Union correspondent

******************CORRECTION December 29, 2004

Andrew James-Catalano, 5, of the Southside was pictured receiving Indian markings on his face at the recent Cowboy Country Christmas held on the Westside. Because of an editing error, his last name was incorrect in a photo caption on Page 1 of the Dec. 22 Southside edition of River City News. Becuase of a reporting error, his place of residence was also incorrect in the caption.

*************

Amid the aroma of chicken roasting over an open campfire, little boys clad in boots and cowboy hats readied their guns for a shoot-out in the horse corral.

Eager witnesses watched from log cabin windows trimmed with simple holiday swags of pine and berries.

After it was all over, the dead rose up, dusted off and wandered over to watch another battle being planned, this one among soldiers decked out in blue and gray.

The lively exchange was all part of the fourth annual Cowboy Country Christmas and 140th anniversary of the Battle of Camp Mooney -- a living history event hosted by River City Family Church at 6800 W. Fifth St. on the Westside.

"We just wanted to have some fun and let people know we're here on the Westside of town," said James Gipson, pastor of River City Family Church.

The Cowboy Christmas began several years ago as a fun experience for the community, filled with horse rides, shooting galleries, a barbecue and other cowboy activities. It grew over the years to include civil war re-enactors, an Indian village, historical displays and vendors displaying their wares.

Armed with a background in teaching history and an interest in team penning -- a rodeo-style event, Gipson said living history programs offer more than just entertainment value.

"People will learn more in one or two hours of living history than they will all year long in a classroom," he said.

Gary Mack of Madison has been involved with living history presentations for more than 20 years.

"I started out playing with cap guns. Our neighborhood was lucky enough to have horses and ponies," he said. "A lot of us kids would go out on the weekends and chase each other and have fun that way."

He describes living history events as a way to peek into another era and another lifestyle long past.

"I think the public finds a peace of mind, for one, and they get to see some things that bring back memories or thoughts of how things used to be. I think nowadays is just too fast-paced, and people need that."

Patti Rang, a storyteller from St. Augustine, regaled passers-by with stories of how pioneers celebrated Christmas.

"The Victorians started with a natural small tree and put on natural berries, flowers, oranges and apples, those were treasured items," she said. As the years progressed, pioneers would dress their small tabletop evergreen trees with handmade ornaments of lace, twine or material, in addition to decorating with dried fruit, strung popcorn and purchased ornaments. …

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