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Harvest home festival brings log cabin to life at Baltimore Woods

Attendees of the Harvest Home celebration at Baltimore Woods pose outside the nature center's log cabin with the straw manikin they helped create.

Attendees of the Harvest Home celebration at Baltimore Woods pose outside the nature center's log cabin with the straw manikin they helped create. Erika Rudl

— Cheerful harvest songs, the warm glow of a campfire, homemade musical instruments, songs and dancing brought the log cabin at Baltimore Woods Nature Center to life last week as musician, historian and folklorist John Bromka led a “Harvest Home” celebration.

Bromka, one half of the artist troupe Bells & Motley, led visitors through various activities on Nov. 19 such as viewing paintings of rural European culture, identifying bunches of dried grains, handcrafting a straw manikin and pressing cider to be shared by all.

It was a time of creativity and celebrating nature’s seasons in the style of one’s ancestors.

Bromka’s passion and enjoyment of medieval culture were evident as he led attendees in song and dance accompanied by his homemade instruments, including bagpipes, a tromba marina and a rommelpot.

“We love history and music and combining it together … that’s why I make these crazy old instruments,” Bromka said of the creative festivities.

He and his wife Sondra (who was unable to join him at Baltimore Woods) have been revealing the folklore, art, music and history of old cultures for 30 years. They play at the Renaissance Fair in Sterling, NY, but also unpack the culture of Colonial America and the Erie Canal. They partner with schools to bring the arts alive in education through music and dance.

“The kids are very responsive,” Bromka stated. Especially for students who normally struggle to participate in school, it is a great way to get them involved. “They eat it up.”

The 10 locals that showed up for the celebrations enjoyed the unique opportunity to participate in old and mostly-forgotten traditions.

Louise Harpster of Marcellus found it very interesting. An old acquaintance of the Bromkas and a member of Baltimore Woods, she has participated in many previous experiences they put on. “John kind of lives the life,” she said with a smile.

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