The dairy farms of days gone by will be returning to Great Falls for one day.
Well, sort of.
As part of Great Falls Day this year, to be held on Saturday, May 7 at the Old Grange, a large cardboard cow will be rigged up to a bag that children can use to “milk” the cow get a better idea of where milk came from in the days before 7-Eleven.
“THE COW is about 4 or 5 feet tall, made of plywood and painted black and white to look like a cow,” said Betty Swartz, an organizer of this year’s event. “There will be an udder filled with diluted milk or water for the kids to learn how to milk it.”
Originally, Swartz had asked the Fairfax County Park Authority if a similar cow, used at Frying Pan Park for the same purpose, could be used, but that cow had been dismantled, so Swartz had to find a different cow.
“I have a real milking machine that will be on display too to show the kids how cows are milked now,” she said.
The theme of this year’s Great Falls Day is a return to the old farming lifestyle that used to be prevalent in the area, she said.
“We’ll also have some local talent performing,” she said. The Sterling Trio, Holy Spirit Singers and a band called Upon This Rock will be taking the stage at various points throughout the day, she said. The Annalemma Society will hold a sundial demonstration and members of the Great Falls Studios will have artistic exhibitions and artwork for sale.
Additionally, there will be an early 1900s re-enactment in the Old School House performed by Mary Frances McKinley and some Girl Scouts from Great Falls.
The girls will go through what would be a typical school day for students in the Old School House in the time between 1900 and 1920, McKinley said, learning lessons and playing games that would have been found at the school during that time.
“We start the morning out by saying the pledge to the flag that was said at the time, without the ‘under God’ because that wasn’t included until the 1950s,” she said.
“IT’S A FUN event that has grown over the years,” she said. “Our segment in the School House runs from noon until 4 p.m., but we’ll also do the flag ceremony to start the morning at 10:30 a.m.”
The invitation to participate is open to all Girl Scout troops in the Great Falls area, McKinley said, but she is unsure how many girls will participate.
“We try to get the community involved too. We’ll let some kids walk in and sit down and pretend they’re in the class,” she said. “It’s an interactive kind of thing.”
Between 11 a.m. and noon, the Blue Sky Puppets will be performing at the library and will then walk over to the park to accept donations for baskets that will be auctioned off to benefit the Great Falls Library, she said.
The event is sponsored by the Great Falls Historical Society, said the society’s president, Calvin Follin.
“We’ve never had a barn exhibit before,” he said. “There’s something different every year. It’s a nice chance to get out and get to know some local organizations.”
The celebration is especially sweet for Follin and the Historical Society this year, as the Grange and Old School House buildings have recently been registered as historic buildings, he said.
The old farm theme was chosen because “there are no real working farms in Great Falls anymore,” he said. “There are only a few cows left and this whole area used to be dairy farms.”
Friends of River Bend Park will be conducting their annual native plant sale during Great Falls Day, he said, with proceeds going to benefit the park. In keeping with the farm theme, an old portable grain mill will be brought in, as will local photos of old barns and farm equipment.
Food and refreshments from Gordon Grill and Thelma’s Ice Cream will be available, Swartz said.
Volunteers are still needed to help direct the crowds around in the park, Swartz said. “We’ll need help setting up the Girl Scouts and the rest of the activities and help taking it all down on Sunday too,” she said.
Anyone wishing to volunteer for the event, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. and last until about 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, can call Follin at 703-759-7680.