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Danville-Neel Pioneer Day puts focus on pioneer life

Danville-Neel Elementary School created a hands-on history lesson for its students on Friday with a Pioneer Day celebration featuring hayrides, craft demonstrations, musical entertainment and a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Students climbed aboard trailers pulled by farm tractors and rode around the playground track several times one class at a time to kick off their fun day. Afterward, they spent several minutes at more than 25 activity stations located both outside and inside the school.

For example, students watched blacksmith Drew Cooper make nails with a forge, hammer and anvil. Eleshea Jones and Brittany Cash cooked hoecakes on an open fire. Don Clark and Waymon Alexander rendered lard from a wash pot filled with chunks of pork fat.

In classrooms, they listened as Eloise Peterson of Burritt Museum gave a talk on pioneer toys, watched Pat Brown and Ramona Roy demonstrate quilt making and observed as Marvin and Sue Warren demonstrated the lifestyle of the Cherokee Indian nation.

Dixie Flavor, a country band featuring Danville High School students, entertained students and visitors in the school lobby.

Other activities included woodcarving, spinning, chair caning, soap making, churning, food preservation, Indian style bow hunting, square dancing, corn shelling, wood chopping and crocheting.

Students and guests shared in an early Thanksgiving meal in the lunchroom.

“This is always our biggest meal of the year,” said lunchroom supervisor Vickie Sanford. “We expect to feed 700 people today, and to get everything ready we have to start preparations a day early. We couldn’t do it without the good support we get from adult volunteers and the student ambassadors.”

The meal consisted of 180 pounds of roasted turkey, 20 hams, 15 large pans of cornbread dressing and 1,152 yeast rolls. The menu also consisted of green beans, casseroles, strawberry short cakes, Jell-O salad and cranberry sauce.

“Pioneer Day has always been a special event at Danville-Neel,” said Principal Tara Murphy, “because of the huge support it gets from people throughout the community. We have such talented parents and grandparents, and they are always happy to share their pioneer skills with the students.”

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