Celebrating county historyPublished 5:30pm Sunday, June 24, 2012
VANDALIA-In effort to preserve and celebrate Cass County’s rich history, the village of Vandalia hosted the third annual Underground Railroad Days Saturday and Sunday.
Orchestrated largely in part by the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC), Underground Railroad (UGRR) Days attracts local and visiting families young and old with an interest in southwest Michigan’s history. Many of the festival’s activities took place at Milo Barnes Park in Vandalia, welcoming new and familiar faces. Just outside Vandalia’s limits, guests could enjoy self-guided tours of the Bonine House, one of 13 Cass County UGRR sites. The majority of tours and events took place throughout the weekend. However, URSCC also presented activities throughout the week, including movies, a kids day at the Bonine House and “Seven Stops to Freedom,” enacted by Dr. Von Washington and his wife, Fran.
“They were fantastic,” Lin Pollard, a member of the URSCC and a Friend of the Bonine House, said. “It was really a super experience.”
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, visitors could walk and browse through local vendors, also. Shelly Born and her daughter, Brittney, owners of Prairie Blossoms, sold jewelry and hair accessories.
“The response was really good,” Shelly said. “It exceeded our expectations, especially on Saturday.”
For the crafty duo, the opportunity to get out into the community and chat with people was also appealing.
Kalamazoo photographer Wendy VanderVeen also enjoyed the chance to celebrate something historic and visit the community.
“My sister and I discovered we have ancestors from this area,” VanderVeen said. “We had seen the advertisement for vendors and decided to come along this year.”
While many of the festival’s visitors live in Cass County, Jeff Thompson and his family, who live in Chicago, have local ties to the community and decided to experience UGRR Days for the first time.
“My wife’s parents have a summer house here, and we decided to take advantage of the events this year,” Thompson said.
After taking the guided bus tours of all 13 UGRR sites, Thompson said he was surprised at how much important history was in the county.
“The historical information of the houses and what they served as in the past, it was very informative,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of history I didn’t know about.”
For more information on the UGRR Days, the Bonine House or the URSCC, visit www.urscc.org.