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Old Fort Niagara to host program on winter survival in the 1750s

YOUNGSTOWN – Winter survival in the 1750s will be the theme of the day as Old Fort Niagara hosts programs, demonstrations and hands-on activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 7.

The event also will feature insight into the Great Lakes fur trade, Native American traditions and snowshoeing, and is suitable for all ages. Visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather, as most events will be held outdoors.

Ongoing activities include: a demonstration of hornsmithing, or how decorative powder horns are made; a chance to participate in the Native American game of “Snow Snakes” and to make and take home a Native American corn-husk doll; an opportunity to make hot chocolate in the 18th century manner; a glimpse of soldier life, including their clothing, personal kits, weapons and equipment; how the fort’s inhabitants prepared, cooked and stored food; and other 18th century games.

Special topics will include “Staying Warm in the Cold” at 12:30 p.m., focusing on how people survived a Niagara winter before electricity and central heat.

This program will examine winter clothing, bedding and heating.

A winter trade demonstration is planned for 1:15 p.m., with hands-on activities about the workings of the 18th century fur trade on the Great Lakes. Visitors will learn about the Great Lakes’ earliest business enterprise, examine popular trade goods and furs, and learn about the lives of Native Americans and “hivernants,” or winter traders.

Educators from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be on hand to discuss the history of the snowshoe at 2 p.m. Visitors will be invited to wear a pair of traditional wooden snowshoes (weather permitting) to accompany a patrol into the woods east of the fort. In the woods, participants will be able to watch a skirmish between re-enactors, then enjoy complimentary hot chocolate prepared over an open fire. Snowshoes are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

The cost to attend these events is included in regular admission to the fort ($12 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and under). It is free to members of Old Fort Niagara.

The fort is a national landmark and state historic site operated by the nonprofit Old Fort Niagara Association in cooperation with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

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