Residents and visitors will have the chance to relive history and celebrate the arrival of spring during this year’s Burlington County May Faire festival at Historic Smithville Park.
May Faire is Sunday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the free event, everyone can learn about Smithville’s storied past and be entertained by live music, theater performances, carnival games, historical re-enactors, arts and craft demonstrations, and more.
This year will also feature a pirate invasion of Smithville Mansion! Legends claim that Burlington County was a favorite hideaway for pirates such as Edward Teach, better known as the notorious Black Beard.
“May Faire helps bring Burlington County’s diverse and unique history to life so visitors can experience it in fun and exciting ways,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “There will be games, music, historical displays, horse and carriage rides, old-time baseball games, tours and even pirates seeking to plunder Smithville’s riches. This is the festival’s second year and already it’s become one the biggest events on our calendar.”
History comes alive
May Faire offers a step back in time with the sights and sounds of Smithville’s heyday as an 1800s industrial town specializing in the production of woodworking equipment and bicycles.
During the festival, visitors will get to meet and interact with historical reenactors of Hezekiah B. Smith, the wealthy industrialist, inventor and politician who founded Smithville, and his wife Agnes Gilkerson Smith, a former mill girl who become a doctor, editor and social reformer.
There will also be a screening of A Scandal at Smithville, a short historical drama about Hezekiah that was produced by the Burlington County Parks Division and filmed in Smithville last fall during the County’s Art After Dark festival.
Throughout the day guests can also walk Smithville’s grounds and take tours of the Smithville Mansion, the 1840 Greek Revival Mansion where Hezekiah and Agnes once lived. There will be a New Jersey Wheelman display of vintage bicycles like the American Star cycles manufactured at Smithville, carriage rides through the villages and demonstrations by a blacksmith, basket weaver, and old-fashioned tintype photographer, plus theatrical performances by the Riddlebrood Touring Theater and the American Magic Lantern Theater, and presentations and displays by historical groups and societies from across the county.
Back this year will also be old-time baseball games featuring the Athletic Baseball Club of Philadelphia and the Monmouth Furnace and Flemington Neshanock teams. The players will don vintage uniforms and play according to old-fashioned rules.
The Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County, which is located in Smithville, will be open during the festival and will also host a guest speaker from the Timbuctoo Historical Society to discuss the history of the 19th century community of freed and escaped slaves.
“Burlington County’s historic sites and artifacts are some of our most important assets and May Faire is an opportunity to showcase Smithville’s past and many of the other historical places, people and events that shaped Burlington County,” said Commissioner Allison Eckel, the liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation and Parks. “May Faire will bring together historical groups, artists, performers and more to celebrate Burlington County’s history and culture in ways entire families can enjoy.”
Pirates and outdoor fun for all ages
A pirate encampment will be located on the grounds of Smithville mansion and will feature marauders from Pirates of Fortune’s Folly, a group of re-enactors based out Philadelphia.
Burlington County’s shores were among the favorite hideaways for pirates during the late 1600s and early 1700s, and legend has it that the notorious Blackbeard plundered ships and towns up and down the Delaware River and buried his loot in Burlington City with the remains of a Spanish sailor he shot so the man’s spirit could guard the riches.
New to May Faire this year is a dance performance by the Millstone River Morris Dancers and a puppet show by Horn’s Punch & Judy Show, plus a variety of food trucks, storytellers, children’s craft activities, face painters and music groups.
The event is organized by the Burlington County Parks Division with the support of the New Jersey Arts Council.
“Burlington County has one of the best parks systems in the nation and events like May Faire showcase some of the natural beauty, history and fun that our County parks, galleries and museums offer residents,” said Eckel. “It’s a free, family-friendly event and the perfect way to experience Smithville and all its Victorian charm and picturesque woods, playground and gardens.”