Aukiki River Festival offers glimpse of bygone days

2013-08-24T20:00:00Z 2013-08-24T23:03:18Z Aukiki River Festival offers glimpse of bygone daysBy Susan O’Leary Times Correspondent
August 24, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

KOUTS | The train ride from Chicago was 40 cents, and $2 purchased a room, meals, a boat, and a river guide.

At Saturday’s Aukiki River Festival, visitors learned that an entire “weekend of fun at Baum’s Bridge” in 1900 cost only $15.

The sixth annual bucolic festival on the banks of the Kankakee River at Baum’s Bridge transported folks back in time, as historical re-enactors displayed period garb and encampments from the days of the Pottawatomie through the 1930s.

John Hodson, founder and president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, said this year’s festival grew about 30 percent with nearly 50 encampments and vendors as word of the event’s popularity has spread.

“There’s a tipping point,” said Hodson. “We used to go begging and calling. Now we are doing very well.”

The family-friendly event is free, but Hodson said donations and food sales benefit the mission of the society — to educate about the history of the area and restore period buildings.

Besides restoring the Collier Lodge, the society aims to reassemble the Linden cabin, recently obtained from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, on the 150 acres surrounding the lodge.

Ray Lawson, of Kouts, was born and raised in the Linden cabin, currently in pieces inside a semi-trailer covered with a camouflage tarp on the property.

Lawson and his wife, Sharon, joined the society and became festival volunteers when they learned that Hodson was bringing the cabin from Countryside Park in Portage to Baum’s Bridge.

“I helped take it apart and bring it down here,” said Ray Lawson. “It’s amazing . . . I never dreamed it would ever be rebuilt.”

“His great-grandfather would be so surprised to know his great-grandson moved the cabin,” said Sharon Lawson. “We’re looking forward to having it put back together.”

The Lawsons and others at the event perused vendors selling period wares, such as wooden bowls and utensils, toys, and brooms.

Bill Culler, of La Belle Couleur, transformed fabrics, leather, and even rabbit fur with natural dyes created from marigolds, walnut trees, and willow and pokeberry leaves.

“Whatever a rainbow does, I can do,” said Culler, a re-enactor from Daleville, Ind. “This festival is quaint, nice, small, and very visitor oriented.”

Bison burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, wild rice cranberry soup, and beans and ham satisfied hungry diners, while groups danced and sang accompanied by the banjo and accordion.

Glenda Whitmore and friend Judy Hamstra were “finding out all sorts of interesting things” from the re-enactors, who are very “dedicated” to depicting characters in history.

“We’ve met some amazing people,” said Whitmore, of Kouts. “My idea of roughing it is not having a refrigerator in the motel room.”

The Aukiki River Festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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