Today was the first day of the volunteer season at This is the Place Heritage Park. I started the season at Andrus Halfway House. It’s a halfway house because it’s halfway between Traveler’s Rest and Orrin Porter Rockwell’s place near Point of the Mountain. Supper, Breakfast and Lodging were $1 per day.
I enjoy volunteering at the park. I get to meet amazing people and it’s a chance to unplug from the electronic world. That basket is my purse for the day when I’m in character. It contains my lunch, my quilting project, my wallet, car keys, turned off cell phone and glasses. Think of volunteering as a form of cosplay. I get to play a woman in the 1850’s and have a venue to do it more than once a year.
Today to start the season, we found the quilt that the volunteers started last season and sorted it out so it’s ready to work on for this year. I had time between guests to almost finish one star. It’s fun to talk to the guests. I love answering questions like “where is the bathroom?” from children and then showing them the washbasin and chamber pot.
I’ve had some great experiences working the park. One day I had forgotten to turn off my cell phone. My ringtone at the time was the Tardis landing. My phone rang and one of the kids in the kitchen with me sparked up and started looking around. He asked me “Where’s the doctor?” I leaned down and whispered, “Check the orchard, maybe you can still catch him.” He bolted out the back door.
My favorite experience was being the only person in Brigham’s House on the 24th of July. For those not familiar with Utah, we don’t celebrate the state founding day in January (also known as the day women lost the vote and a lot of rights). We celebrate the day that the first Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. This Is the Place Heritage park is on the site where Brigham Young declared “This is the Right Place, Drive on.” The next day the pioneers were tilling the land and planting potatoes and beans near the rivers. The pioneer’s turned a Mexican desert into territory of the United States and, after 48.5 years, into a state. So I found myself alone in the Brigham Young Farmhouse on the 24th of July. The employee had to leave so he didn’t go into overtime hours. No guests came into visit. It was a very different feeling from earlier when the house had been full of guests wanting the history of the building and the people who lived there.
I love how the park is now interactive instead of being a look but don’t touch experience. Children are invited to participate in chores and any adult is welcome to sit on the front porch and piece the quilt with us. On a personal note, I love the time to unwind, meet people and help them learn something new. And somedays, I love having locations that are calm so I can work on my scrap quilt and just think.