GREENVILLE — Attendees were treated to a wide selection of food, entertainment, and historical reenactments at this year’s seventh annual Gathering event at Garst Museum.
“It’s a way to celebrate our local history, and to celebrate the people who have shaped our history,” said Jenny Clark, a member of the Darke County Historical Society and volunteer at Garst Museum. “It’s raised a huge amount of awareness for us.”
The event represents a collaborative effort between the museum and the Darke County Parks Board, which administers the land where much of the festival takes place. Vendors selling food, beverages and other merchandise occupy the area immediately surrounding the museum, while a sprawling Living History encampment lies just downhill, where a host of historical reenactors work to demonstrate historical dress and other activities, including knife throwing and food preparation.
Planners of the Gathering event work hard to make sure visitors enjoy an experience that is not quite like any other small-town festival, and this extends to the vendors they invite, who must go through a juried selection process before being allowed to set up shop at the Gathering..
“We don’t want a lot of things that you see at other fairs,” Clark said. “We like vendors that are unique and different. People sometimes say they want to see more vendors, but we’re interested in quality rather than quantity.”
One of the event’s biggest attractions is, of course, the LIving History encampment, which stays true to its name, according to Clark.
“That’s history alive over there,” said Clark. “People can go back and see what it was like.” Paid Civil War reenactors from Indiana and Kentucky work alongside hobbyists and volunteers to make sure the event is as educational and historically accurate as possible, while employees at Mad River Light Artillery in Springfield provide hourly cannon fire demonstrations.
The event continues to grow, with this year’s Living History encampment alone doubling in size compared to last year, and expected to get even bigger in 2018. Donors sponsor all expenses paid trips by visiting artists, with a tent at this year’s Gathering housing ten such visitors. One local couple even got married at the Gathering last year, with another choosing to renew their vows at this year’s festival.
“It’s turned out to be a spectacular event,” said Clay Johnson, president and CEO of Garst Museum, and the organization’s sole full-time employee. The Gathering is the museum’s highpoint of the year when it comes to paid attendance, according to Johnson, who said that this year’s festival is expected to bring in between 400 and 500 paid admissions. The event has also spread awareness about Garst, with visitors, vendors, and volunteers visiting from all over the country.
“People come from all over, and they just wanna come out and spend the day,” said Clark.
“And most of this is still done by volunteers,” said Johnson. “People who spend a full year preparing, putting in their own time, effort, and in many cases their own money.” Garst Museum receives no taxpayer money, making the Gathering a purely donation and volunteer-driven affair.
Those interested in donating or volunteering may contact Garst Museum at 937-548-5250.