Monday, November 17th, 2008
By Shelley Grieshop
An evening in Williamsburg
Local K of C holds authentic 18th century colonial event
ST. HENRY - Men wore snow-white wigs and knee-length trousers while women graced the room with wide-swinging, hooped-petticoats that nearly swept dishes off tables.
On Sunday night, local organizers transformed the Knights of Columbus (K of C) hall in downtown St. Henry into an elegant "An Evening in Williamsburg." Nearly 150 people dined by candlelight at round tables on fare such as peanut soup and sippets, roast game hen with wine sauce and Sally Lunn bread, and were treated to authentic music and dancing.
The event, which sold out more than a month ago, was sponsored by the K of C Council 2640; proceeds will provide scholarships to eligible high school seniors.
"We sponsored a 'Taste of Ireland' dinner on St. Patrick's Day in 2007 and it was a big hit," said Jane Woods, one of several event committee members including her husband, Bill, also a K of C member.
Bill Woods - "a Williamsburg fanatic," as his wife calls him - chose this year's theme after vacationing in the historical region five times in recent years. During his trips to the quaint Virginia community, he visited the taverns and obtained cookbooks to ensure Sunday's "bill of fare" was genuine to the era.
Jim Niekamp, another committee member, provided an educational narrative on colonial life throughout the evening. One of the topics that drew much attention was beer.
"The colonials had a reputation of liking their beer and ... well they earned it," Niekamp said.
The straight-laced Puritans reportedly loaded more beer than water onto the Mayflower when they cast off for the New World, he explained.
"In fact, one of the reasons they landed at Plymouth Rock was because, believe it or not, they ran out of beer," he told the audience, which roared with laughter.
Colonial-era beer was common and plentiful and often brewed from or flavored with vegetables, dandelions and goldenrod - items available at the time, he said.
"And if you were a tavern owner, you enjoyed higher social status than that of the clergy," Niekamp said, drawing more laughs as he apologized to the four priests in attendance.
Besides a line of Samuel Adams beers that resembled those brewed in the 18th century, organizers went to Pennsylvania to obtain Yuengling, an 1829 traditional lager beer for attendees to sample.
By the time the St. Henry Youth Group table servers delivered their final course of the evening - samples of apple cake with rum, lemon chess pie and bread pudding - guests were more than willing to rest their full stomachs and watch as dancers with a troupe of historical re-enactors entertained.
One of the dancers, Tim Nealeigh of Arrogant Frenchman Productions of Greenville, wore small, painted stars, moons and tears on his face, saying it was fashionable cosmetics in the colonial days.
"Do you know why I wear this one? he asked, pointing to the black teardrop below his eye. "I cry for you for you're not French."
Throughout the night, guests unrolled small pieces of paper at each place setting that held a proverb from the by-gone era. The Rev. Harry Cavanaugh, a retired Catholic priest and St. Henry native, carefully read his message aloud as those at his table chuckled.
"Lucky at cards, unlucky at love," he said. "That's pretty accurate."
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