Forging a path to the past
Wyman Elementary School helped kick off this year’s Gaspee Days celebration last Saturday with the 13th annual Walking Tour of Historic Pawtuxet Village, which took place immediately after the official proclamation of the celebration.“It is really special to [the students] to be the first event, kicking off Gaspee Days,” said Celeste Comeau-Mullane, co-coordinator of the event and member of the Wyman Elementary School PTA. More than 75 elementary students volunteer to portray residents of colonial Pawtuxet Village, dressed in period-appropriate attire, turning the area into what Comeau-Mullane calls a “living museum” for the afternoon.
Tours take visitors to 16 historical homes and sites in New England’s oldest village. Pilgrim High School students and parent volunteers lead the tours, providing background and historical details for those who were not familiar with the area. Along the tour, the elementary students greet visitors and perform a short skit to show what life would have been like in the village when it was founded in 1638. Tour stops include the school, bank, blacksmith, graveyard and the Pawtuxet Rangers Armory.
Music also plays a part in the event, with volunteers and students volunteering to sing and perform songs for the crowd.
Over the years, the tour has been refined into a historically accurate and well-detailed experience. Comeau-Mullane explained that participation is voluntary, and students meet to practice once a week for six weeks prior to the tours. They also hear special presentations from organizations such as the Pawtuxet Rangers and Old Sturbridge Village.
“We want them to have a good sense of colonial history,” said Comeau-Mullane. “It is theater and history-based.”
Students in grades three through six from Wyman participate, as well as fifth graders from St. Peter School. Students from Aldrich Junior High School and Pilgrim volunteer as well.