The Withrow Family
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is a family destination. No matter your age, there is something here to excite and enlighten you. Perhaps it’s the interaction with the costumed interpreters, a favorite program or event, or the magic of the place that brings you back time and again.
These things and more sparked something special in the Withrow family. Fascinated by her first visit to Conner Prairie 27 years ago, Mom Sarah Withrow began a career interpreting different characters in Prairietown and participating in a variety of special programs. Son Aaron and daughter Hannah were close behind, beginning their tenure as babies.
At a time when children were allowed to accompany their parents to work, Mom Sarah would carry Aaron in a little bag she wore across her chest—part of her historic clothing—while she interacted with visitors at the Conner House.
Hannah, pictured here in Prairietown inside the Fenton Home (now McClure Home) at just nine weeks old, made an appearance during opening weekend, much to the delight of surprised visitors.
Both Aaron and Hannah were youth interpreters by age 10 and seven years later “graduated” into the roles of adult interpreters. Often times the Withrows worked side by side, playing the roles of mother and daughter, or brother and sister while doing farm chores, cooking, playing games, sharing new skills and having fun with Conner Prairie’s visitors.
Working for so many years as an interpreter helped boost self-confidence in both Sarah and
Hannah. Sarah, a school teacher, says, “My work here also helps to bring a balance to my life. Teaching school is so intense and schedule driven. The focus is on testing what the kids know. Conner Prairie teaches history, but the intensity is determined by the guest(s). Here, it is my role to let the guest lead and I fill in the blanks along the way. They become a part of the story. What a perfect way to teach—based upon interest and curiosity!”
Today you’ll find Hannah in Guest Services, Aaron playing a role in the Follow the North Star
program about the Underground Railroad, and Sarah in the Loom House, at a post in Prairietown or active in special programs, like Conner Prairie by Candlelight
or Hearthside Suppers
. “I still spin, weave, cook, talk, plant and play! What better way for learning…my job here makes me think hard and think fast on my feet. The people I work with are amazing in their knowledge and their commitment. It is a magical place to work and play.”
Pamela Jackson - Guest Services
It’s spring, and after we survived the long winter months, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming both spring and the 2011 season at Conner Prairie. We’ve got lots of exciting events coming up, so give us a call in Guest Services if you aren’t sure what programs are appropriate for you and your family or group.
First up is our acclaimed Follow the North Star
program, an Underground Railroad simulation that runs Fridays and Saturdays the first three weekends in April. (The last weekend is sold out; remaining available dates are April 8 & 9). If you plan to attend, stop and say hello to me at the Guest Services ticket desk, where I will be checking in tour groups with reservations and handing out release forms.
A lot of these groups consist of school children, but since Follow the North Star is not recommended for persons under age twelve, these school groups tend to be high schoolers or even college students. We have many teachers and sponsors who return year after year, eager to introduce their students to this very effective learning experience. There are also other participants arriving from nearby or far away, many for the first time, and full of questions:
“Will they touch us?” (No!)
“Will we get lost?” (You may think you’re lost, but we know where you are at all times.)
“Will it be cold/rainy/windy?” (Maybe, so we hope you’re dressed for the weather.)
“Are we going to get yelled at?” (Absolutely!)
Follow the North Star is such an intense experience because guests assume the roles of fugitive slaves. Our Conner Prairie interpreters – you know, the ones who are usually so friendly and helpful while in 1836 costume – take on different personas for this program, and can be either very intimidating or quite helpful to the “slaves” on their journey to freedom. This program is designed to create a learning experience unlike any other, not by reading or listening or watching, but by doing. As such, it is not for the faint of heart!
You see, when I’m not at the ticket desk, I also participate in Follow the North Star in various capacities. Perhaps I am walking the groups out to begin their experience, admonishing them to remember it is 1836. Perhaps I am in costume waiting to assist them on their outdoor journey, or – not to give too much away – perhaps I see that groups arrive at their final stop relatively unscathed.
So come on out and try our Underground Railroad simulation if you have a sincere desire to learn in a unique fashion. If that is not for you, then we hope to see you during the daytime for an enjoyable visit back in time!
Pamela Jackson - Guest Services
It’s September! The grass is crunchy from lack of rain, but the humidity is low, the sky is blue, and the hint of fall is beckoning me outdoors. So where am I? I’m stuck indoors staring at a pile of papers that need grading. I want to get outside and enjoy this glorious weather, but – and you knew there was a but – I have little time to spare because life gets in the way. I am a high school English teacher, working in an inner-city public school system in Indianapolis, and my day job eats away at my leisure time. I’m beginning to feel pale from all the time spent inside trying to decipher sophomore essays, and the only fresh air I get is what’s blowing through my open window.
Sometimes a person just has to push back from the computer and take a well-deserved break. Like a lot of stressed out folks in this economy, I desperately need a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air. Working weekends in Guest Services at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is a welcome break from my daily routine, one I look forward to Monday through Friday.
We in Guest Services hope you will abandon your weekly responsibilities for a few hours, too. Grab the family and come on out for some well-deserved fun! Enjoy the historic exhibits; sample some apple concoctions from The Apple Store
; buy a trinket or book from the Store; talk to our historic interpreters as their characters prepare for the coming winter months; take a ride in our 1859 Hot Air Balloon
and breathe in the clean fresh air while enjoying the view at 350 feet.
There is so much to do here, and not only on the weekend. Despite our need for rain, the weather promises to be glorious for the remainder of this month. It would be a shame to spend the time indoors, so throw caution to the wind (pardon the cliché), forget about that work you brought home, and come on out to Conner Prairie. Hey – the summer is waning, but that paperwork will still be there Monday morning.