Getting the feel of Colonial Days

Cornhusks can be used for more than wrapping tamales.

They can also be bent, twisted and tied into dolls, as El Morro Elementary School students learned Monday during the Laguna Beach school's annual Colonial Days festival.

The two-day event, which coincides with Thanksgiving week, harks back to colonial America and introduces students to activities they may have only read about in books.

Parent volunteers, dressed in pilgrim or Native American attire, taught students how to make candles from bowls of hot wax, stitch a pattern on fabric, and form those cornhusks into dolls.

Classes rotated through the multipurpose room to participate in the various activities and perhaps grab a fresh-made tortilla topped with beans and a sliver of cheese.

Colonial Days started in 1986, according to organizers, and Ginny Preston helped founder Marlena McDermott at its beginning.

Preston, clothed in a colonial-era dress with a brown bonnet, sat in a circle with students and guided them as they stitched patterns on pieces of cloth.

Certain Colonial Days elements have endured, such as candle-making, corn grinding (for tortillas) and students dressing in era-appropriate garb, but other aspects have changed, Preston said.

Organizers held the event entirely outdoors one year, she said.

"There were live chickens and one laid an egg."

In its early years, Colonial Days organizers didn't have as much money to use on supplies for the two-day festival as they do now, Preston said.

"We had to beg, borrow or buy the stuff ourselves," Preston said.

This year, the school's Parent Teacher Assn. provided $2,000 to $2,500 for the event, event co-chairwoman Kelly Boyd estimated.

Event organizers used the money to purchase beads, leather and fabric, said Patty Tacklind, event co-chairwoman.

"The PTA is super-generous," said Tacklind, who started volunteering during Colonial Days seven years ago.

She praised fellow volunteers and area businesses for their support.

Volunteers spent four days cutting wicks, ribbons and fabric, making ropes and decorating the multipurpose room for the festival, Tacklind said.

Every year parents donate items that help with set-up, whether it be a rug or a bench, she said.

"The most shocking part for me is how many parents love the old crafts, clay-making or learning to cross stitch," Tacklind said. "This is not modern stuff, so it's an educational opportunity for the kids."

Trader Joe's donated apple cider and Ganahl Lumber provided paper to cover the multipurpose room floor, according to Tacklind. Factotum Leather Repair donated all bookmarks, Tacklind said.

"This is a community-built event for our kids," Tacklind said.

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