Oklahoma open house event remains popular
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — Hunter’s Home may have hosted its annual Christmas Open House under a new name, but there was no confusion, as indicated by the event’s popularity during its three-hour run.
The stately antebellum home of the George Murrell family was adorned with holiday decor, and the scents of traditionally prepared foods and cider were in the air. Admission was free.
Open house at Hunter’s Home went off without a hitch, despite scary forecasts of deep snow that did not materialize.
“I was about to have a panic attack,” Jennifer Frazee, historical interpreter, told the Tahlequah Daily Press . “But the plus side was that we went ahead and started decorating and getting everything done just in case we weren’t able to make it in on Saturday. We had everything done well ahead of time, and didn’t have a lot of prep work this morning.”
Frazee said foot traffic through Hunter’s Home was heavy, and that the food is always the big attraction.
“We have 19th century recipes made by our Friends ladies and people on the site,” Frazee said. “We serve samples, so people not only get a visual idea of what life was like in the mid-19th century, they can get a taste as well.”
Many of the interpreters wore clothing they fashioned themselves — Frazee said laundry is often done onsite. The ornaments were handmade, and greenery throughout the house was researched to match 19th century presentation.
The food included cornmeal cookies, date bars, salted and smoked ham, smoked meats and cheeses, and malt cider.
In the Daniel Cabin, hominy was prepared by David Fowler, regional director for the Oklahoma Historical Society, who was decked out in mid-19th century attire.
“This is a 10th century variety of white dent corn,” Fowler said. “It takes about 190 days between the time you put it in the ground to when you harvest. We grew on a quarter acre and got 46 bushels worth of ear corn. It filled an entire horse-drawn wagon.”
Fowler said the Hunter’s Home open house is one of his favorite events of the year.
The overarching goal of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to preserve history and educate visitors and students through programs. But the open house is more relaxed.
“It’s one of our few Sundays open,” Fowler said. “For education programs and Ghost Stories, we are usually on a strict schedule. This is a social event to visit with the public and there is no agenda. People can stroll around the site. One of my earliest Hunter’s Home memories is of this event. It has been a tradition to kick off the holiday season for a long time.”
Among the visitors was a trio that traveled from Eagle Rock, Missouri: Kimberly Lopez, her daughter Arriel, and her mother Pat Crow.
“This is our second year to come down here,” Kimberly Lopez said. “I love Christmas activities, and I searched for places. I found this on the Oklahoma Historical Society Calendar.”
Crow said she enjoyed making the trip again and spending time with her daughter and granddaughter.
Like so many open house patrons, Arriel Lopez liked the food samples.
“I enjoyed coffee over the fire,” she said. “I liked the cornmeal cookies; what didn’t I like is the easier question. We love history and coming here to see living history. Also, it’s a beautiful drive here. We came down Scenic (Highway) 10.”
Not everything was 100 percent traditional. Beth Herrington, local historian and retired longtime music teacher for Tahlequah Public Schools, used an electric keyboard to enhance the festive mood with Christmas tunes. It would have been a feat to wheel in an upright piano, and the parlor room piano dating to the 1840s is an authentic artifact.
Information from: Tahlequah Daily Press, http://www.tahlequahdaailypress.com