August 7-13, 2002
Like a wedding, the August Court Days will have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
The old is 18th century old. Two hundred reenactors will put on white wigs, hoop skirts and other clothing from the 1770s for the 26th annual Colonial-era street fair. They will be in downtown Leesburg Aug. 17-18 acting out events from the August court session when a traveling judge stopped in Leesburg to hear court cases.
The judge, who was sent by the House of Burgess, heard civil disputes, minor criminal offenses and administrative matters once a year until 1756, when there were enough cases to hold court on a quarterly basis.
"The reenactors really make it come to life," said Vicki Bendure, spokesperson for the event.
Reenactors from the Living History Foundation will conduct mock trials based on historical trials on record, using court files to write small plays they have not performed before. The plays will be staged in the old Courthouse building where the actual trials took place.
By 1776, Loudoun residents saw the August court session as a social gathering, since it took place during the warmest season of the year. The residents gathered in Leesburg to socialize, gossip and hear the latest news about political and economic events in England and the colonies, along with seeing who was on trial.
"Some of them [reenactors] are so wedded to the character they play, some of them talk in colonial vernacular," Vendure said, adding that even when talking business, "They don't come out of character. They are really good at this."
THE NEW will be the 21st century visitors interacting with the reenactors.
"They are all intrigued by the costumes. I still feel like I'm teaching, even though I'm playing a character," said Bonnie Fairbank, a history interpreter with Pat Sowers for the Little Maids of History in Alexandria.
Fairbank and Sowers again will play the Carter sisters, two 18th century ladies who will be on the lookout for husbands and extra help on their plantation.
"Of course, I'm still looking for a husband and haven't found one yet," said Fairbank, who will play Ethel Carter this time while Sowers plays Lucy. "Usually the women want to give up their husbands. I never have to ask."
Some of the reenactors will represent two groups of militia from Maryland, frontiersmen from the valley and Scottish Army troops representing the King of England. They will voice their concerns about the King or rebels, some of them camping out on the courthouse lawns to demonstrate the camping styles and utensils of the colonists.
Other reenactors will demonstrate English dancing twice a day and fencing once a day, inviting the public to participate in both activities.
"To see the public mixed in with them is pretty funny," Vendure said.
REENACTORS will play street performers and jousters, along with street vendors trying to sell their crafts and food. New crafters will be at the event this year, including potters, painters and photographers. Seventy-two vendors will sell crafts, compared to 60 last year, and another 75 will sell food.
The Children's Colonial Fair and Games will be expanded with demonstrations on doll-making, along with the usual demonstrations of spinning, weaving, rope making, calligraphy with a feather pin and clothes washing with a wash board.
There also will be live folk and country music performances throughout the day.
"It's become a signature event for Leesburg," Vendure said. "It has a pretty good following."
Lastly, the blue is for blue skies and good weather. The event attracted a crowd of 15,000 last year and 13,000 the year before, both during sunny weekends. The turnout for this year's event will be dependent on the weather, Vendure said, adding that she hopes for a turnout of at least 15,000 people.