Old Mill Town Christmas is coming to Seabeck


Step back in time and spend Christmas like it would have been celebrated in the mid 1800s. This year you'll have two opportunities to celebrate Old Mill Town Christmas, on Dec. 14 and 15 at the Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck.

As in years past, the Old Mill Town holiday event will include pioneer music and dancing, a historical program, hay rides, the Mill Town Family dinner, caroling and a raffle of great holiday gift baskets. Previously, the dinner happened only once each season, but this year it has been expanded to two nights due to its popularity.

This is the sixth year for Old Mill Town Christmas, according to Megan Bradley, program coordinator for the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum which is coordinating the event. Previous years' attendance ran between 150 to 200, and tickets sold out. So the historical society decided to add a second night to accommodate the need. They are hoping to see from 300 to 400 people attend this year.

Life in the old mill town of Seabeck in the 1860s was busy, with lumber mills in full swing. At the time Seabeck had a population larger than that of Seattle. Families were coming from cities like New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco to settle along the Kitsap Peninsula in the logging camps near Seabeck.

The event is a way to experience that history, Bradley said.

Members of the society will dress in period costumes. Hay wagon rides will be offered as visitors gather on the grounds that were once a logging camp. Hot cider and roasted chestnuts will be available. The Bremerton Symphony Chorale will walk about the grounds singing holiday tunes.On Saturday evening, the Kitsap Kickers, a line dancing group, will entertain. On Sunday, there will be accordion music, waltzes and polkas to the music of Randy Bradley.

Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. and will include clam chowder, cornish game hens with cranberry glaze, roasted mushrooms and glazed carrots, tri-colored fingerling potatoes, corn fritters and biscuits, and for dessert -- bread pudding.

"These are all the traditional foods that would have been served at Christmas in the mid 1800s," Bradley said.

Following dinner, “Of Ferries and Bridges: Stories of Puget Sound," will be performed by Jill Johnson, actress and professional storyteller from Whidbey Island.

Bradley said a good part of Johnson’s professional career as a storyteller has been reviving forgotten pieces of Puget Sound maritime history. "In this presentation, she will bring to life some of the characters who have been part of that history including Berte Olson, the first woman to skipper a ferry boat on Puget Sound," Bradley said.

Johnson has been a professional storyteller for several years. She previously was a teacher, a curriculum director, a trainer, a recreation specialist an international development consultant and, now, a storyteller.

She spend time in Seabeck researching Berte Olson.

"I was there interviewing the former conference director and researching historical documents," she said. "There's a strong connection between Seabeck and Berte that I will reveal in my storytelling."

Besides being the first woman to skipper a ferry boat on Puget Sound, Olson owned her own ferry boat company. Johnson has performed Olson's story more than 50 times under the title "Little But Oh My…"

"The purpose of telling this story is to bring back the neglected pieces of Puget Sound maritime history," she said. "And Berte's story is one of them."

Johnson said many times after she performs, someone in the audience will come up and tell her that they are related to Olson, or knew the family, or even had family that worked for her.

"When that happens, I know I've done what I wanted to --to bring her back to life," Johnson said.

Another story she will tell is that of a pioneer family on Christmas Eve in 1881.

"It could have been a family living in Seabeck," she said. "It's the perfect story for the families that will be there to hear."

When she tells a story, Johnson said she is the storyteller, although sometimes she takes on the character she is speaking about.

"At places I become Berte and her father and one of the investors in her company," she said. "I do slip into character from time to time."

Many of the characters in her stories are actually based on real people she has encountered in her life, including a gardener she befriended when she served in the Peace Corp in Morocco in the 1990s.

"Storytelling is a wonderful way to use all the life experiences I've had," she said.

Old Mill Town Christmas is a way to make history come alive and to show modern day people that Christmas was simple back in the day, Bradley said. The focus is on experiencing music and dance with families, and not on getting gifts. It is a fundraising benefit for the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum.

The event begins at 4 p.m. each day at the Seabeck Conference Center, 15395 Seabeck Highway NW, Seabeck. Adults are $30 each and children ages 4 to 12 are $15. Children age 3 and younger are free. It concludes at 8 p.m.

To make reservations or for more information, call 360-479-6226.

Old Mill Town Christmas is hosted by the Kitsap County Historical Society and sponsored by the Kitsap Community Foundation, Kitsap Credit Union, FPH Construction and Sound Publishing.






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