History, nature camps make summer special at Yates Mill

Getting close to nature near the Yates Mill dam (All photos courtesy Historic Yates Mill County Park)

By Rebeccah Cope and Jennifer Miller
HYMCP staff

Historic Yates Mill County Park has been bustling with activity during the last few months. Children’s summer camps hosted by park staff and outside organizations, such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, have kept the park filled with youthful inquiring minds eager to learn about the historical and natural features found in and around Yates Mill.

In June, young historians flocked to Historical Trades Camp where they learned how every community member played an important role in daily life. Participants explored the occupations and contributions of printers, yeoman farmers, soldiers, and, of course, millers.

Campers paid a visit to the lovely cows at NC State Dairy Unit to learn where their favorite dairy products come from and enjoyed ice cream from the NC State Creamery. On the final day of camp, Federal and Confederate Civil War reenactors visited Yates Mill and taught our campers about the lives of nineteenth-century soldiers.

July’s Art in Nature Camp encouraged children to discover the wild inspirations and beauty in nature, the science of art and natural colors, and participate in artistic field explorations. Fun hands-on activities and art projects reinforced the main themes in this camp, while stimulating camper’s artistic sides.

Park staff member Hilary Goodnow (right) shows campers some of the picturesque sights at Yates Mill during the Art in Nature camp.

Participants learned how paint was historically produced using animal, vegetable and mineral products, and made homemade paint using red and yellow ochre, green earth and charcoal mixed with eggs to create cave-style rock paintings.

In August, Historic Yates Mill hosted one final summer camp. The Nature Adventurers Camp took advantage of the wonderful natural resources found in the park and embraced the themes of geologic formations and natural cycles, water ways, our neighbors in nature, and ecological interconnections. Participants explored how the establishment of the mill site transformed a creek environment into a pond and the types of wildlife that are found in the park.

You can view pictures from these camps and many other events on the park’s Facebook page. You don’t have to be a Facebook subscriber to view these pictures.

Head miller William Robbins shows young guests how to get corn off the cob with a corn sheller

In recent months, weekend corn-grinding demonstrations have also brought the public out to the park. Record-breaking temperatures in early July and the mill pond’s low water level caused concern over the ability of park staff and volunteers to host Corn Grinding in July. Despite these initial concerns and gloomy weekend weather, the July event proved a smashing success with over 150 people touring the mill. The dedication and hard work of Yates Mill and YMA volunteers is essential to the continued success of these events.

Corn-grinding demonstrations will continue through November, alongside the park’s monthly historic trades’ presentations. Previous presentations included displays and interactive activities on yeoman farmers, naturalists, wood workers and archaeologists.

August events included another interesting historic occupation with a focus on en plenair painters (artists who work outside). Artists have been inspired by the park’s wild beauty and the mill’s simple elegance for decades. Visitors during the August corn-grinding weekend got to meet artists at work and try their hand at working with water colors.

Planning is well underway for the seventh annual Fall Harvest Celebration, the park’s largest annual event drawing around 2,000 visitors each year. This free, family-oriented event is scheduled for September 15th and will include corn-grinding tours of Yates Mill, a children’s scavenger hunt activity, live music and dance, storytellers, community displays, handcraft demonstrations and sales, antique vehicles, farm tool displays, cornmeal cook-off, food vendors, and much more!

This year the park hopes to increase participation in the cornmeal cook-off and highly encourages members of Yates Mill Associates and friends in the general public to join the fun by entering their best cornmeal recipes. Check this news page in the coming months for more information on rules and prizes.

Would you like to spend more time at Historic Yates Mill County Park? We welcome additional volunteers to assist with mill tours, special events and other park programs. We could really use your help! If you are interested in volunteering, we encourage you to call our Volunteer Coordinator at (919) 856-5378.

Finally, the Historic Yates Mill staff is working on more ways to enhance your experience at the park – right now we’re working on a cellphone audio tour using OnCell, a popular mobile service used by museums, historic sites, national parks and zoos across the country. Right now the Yates Mill tour has seven stops that give information about the park, the A.E. Finley Center, and programs and events. The tour is being expanded to include information about the historic mill and Yates Mill Associates. To check out the current stops on the audio tour please call, (919) 714-8121.

Come visit us at Yates Mill!


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