Banneker Historical Park and Museum to host annual 'Colonial Market Fair'

An 18th-century American marketplace in the form of the Colonial Market Fair will come to life this weekend at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Museum and Park.

On June 9 and 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors to the park at 300 Oella Ave. can dance to colonial music, watch craftsmen at work making soap, rope, candles or hardware, and interact with “historical figures” from the era.

Benjamin Banneker, a free and self-educated African-American man born in 1731, spent his life farming, studying mathematics and publishing six almanacs. His land is now the site of the Benjamin Banneker Museum and Park.

The event is free, but organizers from the Benjamin Banneker Foundation are asking for a $5 donation for on-site parking.

Willa Banks, director of education/curatorial affairs for the museum, said about 1,000 visitors each day are anticipated.

Judy Miller, a board member of the Benjamin Banneker Foundation, said the fair is important not only to get people interested in the park and museum, but because it gets people engaged with history.

“American history is not necessarily something that most people indulge in today,” said Miller, a retired history teacher. “It’s become, I won’t say obsolete, but years ago history was [seen as] very, very important. Today, it is still important, but you don’t see as many people getting involved in history activity.”

According to the event website, food vendors will include Jurassic Pork, which is a BBQ food truck, and Flair Cuisine on Saturday and Sunday. A Kona Ice truck will be on site Sunday.

There will also be a produce stand and an earthen oven with baked goods.

Performances will range from banjo music, to the fife and drum, to African-American songs and stories provided by Washington, D.C.-based Jubilee Voices.

Weather permitting, there will be a 20-minute, guided hike around Banneker’s old homestead.

From noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, the Benjamin Banneker Foundation will have a “colonial tea” fundraiser for Ellicott City flood relief efforts in the Molly Bannaky House.

And, during the fair, men and women dressed in full colonial-era garb will bring the world Banneker inhabited back to life.

David Bellamy will be on-site to play the role of Jacob Hall, a classmate and friend of Banneker’s. Bellamy said this will be his fourth year playing the role at the Colonial Market Fair.

“The 1800s were an understandable time,” Bellamy said. “It’s a good time to see a community, that’s exactly what market fairs were. They were an opportunity for communities to come together, to laugh, to dance and sing, to sell their wares, and that’s exactly what happens at our market fair.”

He said part of the appeal of playing a historical figure is that it’s easier to engage an audience and to teach them something. Bellamy, who lives in Silver Spring, said it’s always worth the drive to Oella for events at the museum.

“Children and adults can learn so much more by having a conversation with someone from the 18th century as opposed to someone just giving facts,” he said.

Cherrie Evans, a 71-year-old Catonsville resident and former Baltimore County librarian, plays the role of Molly Bannaky, Banneker’s grandmother. She said she likes being able to entertain and educate at the same time, and that she has “the perfect accent” for the job.

“I like going round from person to person explaining who I am and describing my clothing,” she said. “I also love being in the cabin and talking about colonial cooking, hygiene and what it would have been like for Ben as a child.”

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