A bit of French culture at Old Fort Niagara

Wayne Peters/ContributorLearn how to cook over a hearth at Old Fort Niagara’s “French Heritage Day.” Recipes, ingredients, instructions and lunch are included in this workshop, which is open to eight participants. Call 745-7611 to register.

Behind the thick stone walls of Old Fort Niagara’s French Castle, Old Fort Niagara’s staff and volunteers will offer living history programs for visitors about the French influences on the Niagara region on Saturday during “French Heritage Day.”

Demonstrations of life as a soldier, games, cooking, trading, music, muskets and artillery will occupy the French Castle and fort grounds from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Simultaneously, the fort is offering a Hearth Cooking Workshop in the French Castle’s boulangerie from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The workshop will teach eight participants how to cook an 18th-century meal over an open hearth. It includes recipes, ingredients, tools and techniques. The class is open to anyone, regardless of cooking or fire-making skills, and includes lunch (eating the prepared meal). Niagara County Historian Kate Emerson will instruct. Participation in the workshop is $50 per person or $45 for Old Fort Niagara Association members. Reservations can be made by calling (716) 745-7611 during normal business hours.

Elsewhere in the castle and on fort grounds, staff and volunteers will portray French soldiers, Native traders, voyageurs and civilians and the public will learn about:

• Hands-on introduction to the 18th century fur trade

• French military music

• Food and cooking techniques from the 1700s

• 18 century French medicine

• French soldier life

• Religion in the original Catholic chapel

• Musket firing demonstrations

• Cannon firing demonstrations

• 18th century French games

• 18th century surveying

“‘French Heritage Day’ is an enhanced living history experience for visitors and focuses on the fort’s early years as a trading post,” said Robert L. Emerson, executive director of the Old Fort Niagara Association. “Visitors will enjoy meeting re-enactors, exploring the French Castle and learning what life was like back then.”

The French Castle is at the heart of “French Heritage Day.” It was built by the French in 1726 and is the oldest original building that still exists on the Great Lakes. It was surrounded by a wooden stockade and housed about 40 soldiers. The new fort protected French interests in the region and provided a venue where Frenchmen and Native Americans could meet to negotiate and trade.

Regular admission prices apply to “French Heritage Day” (not including the cooking workshop): $13 for adults, $9 for children, and free for children ages 5 and under and for Old Fort Niagara Association members.

Active military, veterans and their families admitted free on Veterans Day. Visitors need only to present their military ID at the admissions desk. 

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