Kate Arnold - Guest Blogger: Conner Prairie Facilitator and Intern
“Good day, all. Welcome to the Mayfield and Nichols Dry Goods Store. My name is Kate Knightley.” This is how you will usually hear me introduce myself if you see me at Conner Prairie. However, when I am not on the grounds playing the part of the distressed Miss Knightley of Dupont, Ind., at 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
, my real name is Katie Arnold. I want to tell you about Glorious Fourth
, which is July 2, 3 & 4, but before I get to that, let me tell you a little bit about me.
I have been very blessed this summer because not only do I have the opportunity to be a costumed facilitator, but I also get to work as a public relations intern. Through both of these experiences I get to see how Conner Prairie operates from multiple perspectives, which is absolutely fascinating. From the care and consideration that goes into the presentation of Indiana history to the creators of programs and exhibits and the characters’ biographies and stories, it is all inspiring. I have loved coming to Conner Prairie since my first visit in elementary school. It has been through the experiences I received here and at other museums that have ignited my passion for history. That’s why I am now majoring in history at Purdue. I absolutely love sharing the stories of the past with others; if I can help just one person to truly grasp history so that they actually feel the events of the past, then I consider that to be a successful day.
This brings me to the reason why I am writing this post. Last week, my sister, recurring blog writer and Education Programs Manager Rosie Arnold, approached me and told me that I was assigned the task of writing a blog for Conner Prairie’s next summer event, Glorious Fourth. No pressure, it’s just one of Conner Prairie’s biggest summer events and the celebration of Independence Day. Needless to say, I wanted my message to be good. Immediately, I began brainstorming about what Independence Day means to me. There were the obvious answers: liberty, freedom, the Declaration of Independence, etc. Sometimes it feels like these words are used so much that they lose their value. I wanted this blog to get us back to our core values and enliven a spirit of patriotism. Overachieving? Maybe.
As I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say, I recalled my experience at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., when I saw the 1814 flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. As I slowly walked past the flag and listened to the story of the men who, for 25 hours, sacrificed their lives to keep it standing during the British bombardment, a chord struck within me. Just what is it about this country that made hundreds of men put themselves in harm’s way, simply to protect a flag? Many of them had families, goals and opportunity. They had their whole lives before them, and yet they chose to stand in front of oncoming shelling just to keep a few pieces of cloth flying. Why? When the tale was done, “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play quietly overhead. Humbled by the experience, I began to cry. This is what I had to portray in my message for Glorious Fourth to all of you.
You see, to those brave men, to the ones who came before them and to the people who followed in their footsteps, those pieces of cloth are more than just fibers woven together. They stand for values that make us who we are as human beings. They represent freedom, liberty, democracy, education, family, faith and opportunity. The beautiful thing about this country is that each person’s values vary. This is a country that celebrates differences. I see this truth every time I work out in Civil War Journey at Conner Prairie.
During the Civil War, Indiana was in turmoil. Hoosiers were split in their support for the North or South, but during Morgan’s Raid, when the state was under attack, they banded together to defend their home. My character, Kate Knightley, faces a similar conflict. As I have written her, she is split in her views because her father and brother fight for the North while her beau is a Confederate. All she can do is pray for an end to the war. It isn’t until Morgan’s Raid that she understands what this war is about and decides to side with the Union.
July 4th is a day during which we should celebrate not only the sacrifices of our veterans and the vision of our forefathers, but also the values that we believe in and live by. We should celebrate our differences and the fact that, in spite of them, we are able to unite together as Americans.
This year I am so excited to experience Glorious Fourth. Conner Prairie has all sorts of activities for visitors. We have a new family play area where you can participate in yard games like croquet, horseshoes and sack racing. We also have patriotic crafts, where you can sign the Declaration of Independence with a real quill pen or help paint one of several historical murals. There will be food, patriotic games and authentic Fourth of July fun straight from the 19th century. Not only is it a chance to do special activities throughout the grounds but we get to celebrate the holiday together united by our freedom to be different. It truly will be a Glorious Fourth!