WANTAGE, NJ - There is no snow on the ground, yet the holiday season is in full effect through tomorrow, as the Chinkchewunska Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) celebrates with the public during their annual Christmas in July event.
The group annually holds this event, and offers many surprises and treats to guest, who can enjoy a bit of the holiday season, while the weather is still sunny and warm.
Christmas in July is held at the DAR's Elias Van Bunschooten Museum, a Dutch Colonial home built in 1787, and expanded upon in the 1800's. The decor of the home reflects furnishings, accents, and relics from the many eras.
Mary Alice Hosking, one of the members who gave tours, told visitors that she is one of approximately 100 members of the Chinkchewunska Chapter. Hosking, along with other members, including Gail Shawger, and Melanie Matthies, who all spoke with The Alternative Press, dress in period costumes from the Revolutionary through the Civil War eras, and take guests through the home for a complimentary tour.
Hosking showed The Alternative Press one of the treasures in the home, a period-style desk.
"Can you imagine using this?" Hosking asked children who watched as she opened it.
Hosking and Shawger explained some of the family history in the home, pointing out paintings of a number of members of the ancestral line who lived there, after Van Bunschooten. Van Bunschooten, who was a pastor, never married or had children, and sold his home and then sprawling property of 650 acres to nephew Elias Cooper in 1814. Portraits of a number of the Coopers adorn the walls, and were depicted by the artistic methods of the era, Hosking and Shawger said. Those that were wealthy, like the Coopers, as an example, rarely if ever smiled when painted, and their faces were often placed by artists into pre-made paintings.
Some of these relatives, included Daniel Webster Cooper, Sarah Dodge Cooper, Sarah Howell Cooper, and Britta Cooper, who Shawger said, was the final family member to reside in the home. A portrait of Britta Cooper hangs in the corner of a fancy parlor, where her beautifully-preserved wedding dress, is also on display.
At one point, family members, Shawger explained, lived in a hotel in Pennsylvania for eight months out of the year, and then the remaining four months at the home. A farmer was also permitted by the family to farm there, and in the 1930's and 40's, the home served as a boarding house.
Today, the home, which was given to the DAR in 1971 for the purpose of a museum, has six and a half acres of land, and there are buildings adjacent to it on the property; among them are a privy, ice house (including a milk room), wagon house, and large barn.
In addition to the tour of the home from DAR members, CAR (Children of the American Revolution) also donning period costumes, will give tours of the ice house and privy.
There is something for everyone at the Christmas in July celebration.
Vendors and crafters are featured in the front right of the property. One of them is renowned Santa carver, Ken Dispoto, who will be demonstrating his art throughout the weekend. Today, he will be joined by carver Agatha Sheerin.
"I carve all year long, and go to fairs in the summer," Dispoto said.
He will also spend some time at the upcoming New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.
Another place to explore on the grounds is the chapter's Attic Treasures Sale, with a variety of unique items for sale, from bric-a-brac to books.
A silent auction is another happening over the weekend, where there will be different items featured each day.
"We got a lot of donations for our silent auction," said Matthies, who added how last year the chapter raised $600 as a result.
Additionally, local re-enactors are there both days, demonstrations will take place in the home (spinning and lace making by the Lost Art Lacers of North Jersey), artistic demonstration (Laurie Harden's "10 Minute Portraits"), and live music today and tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. from Mingo of Big Boss Sausage (along with special musical guests).
Visitors can wrap up their Christmas in July with special Christmas cookies, punch and confections inside, and enjoy a meal or snack at Cafe Elias, where burgers, hot dogs, side salads, chips, soda, fresh lemonade and iced tea, and ice cream, are on the menu.
Christmas in July can be celebrated today and tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., located at 1097 Route 23 in Wantage.
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