Clark County Historical Society celebrates a magical 125 years

As the Clark County Historical Society celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, it's also able to bring back one of it's most-loved events that has been on hold the past two years. 

Starting in 2018, the Historical Society's Wizarding World events were a local hit, and this year, they are being brought back bigger and better than before. 

Springfield's Wizarding Weekend will kick of Friday, Oct. 7, and continue with special events throughout Saturday, Oct. 8. 

"The biggest difference is all the things we're adding on Saturday. It's all day long and both throughout our building and in Downtown Springfield," says Natalie Fritz, archivist and director of collection outreach and social media for the Historical Society. "We wanted to bring people Downtown to enjoy this and everything else about our Downtown."

From making dragon eggs to Jeopardy-style tirvia and costumed characters to pub-style trivia, Fritz says there will be something for just about everyone. 

"There will be people to bring the Wizarding World to life, with professors from the school, and we'll have some historical figures," she says. "We'll have live historical figures that will be able to interact with people."

Fritz says tying those historical elements into fresh, fun events, like the Wizarding Weekend, are an important part of highlighting the Historical Society and attracting new crowds. 

Founded in 1897, the Historical Society started with a legacy of Civil War veteran who wanted to find a way to ensure their work would be remembered, Fritz says. 

"There also used to be a joke that it started because their wives wanted their cannon balls out of their kitchens," Fritz laughed, adding that the group started out with a relic room in the Bushnell Building

Through the years, the Historical Society had various homes, she says, until 2001 when a large donation and a sales tax allowed the organization to renovate and move to The Heritage Center. 

"Now, we run levies to fund the upkeep of the roof, new gutters, the elevators. We know there needs to be funds for ongoing upkeep so the building can be maintained," Fritz says. "And it's great to have the support of the community.

"We are a 125-year-old organization in a 132-year-old building, and it's exciting that we have been able to do projects over the years to maintain it with the levy support."

Within the walls of the Historical Society at The Heritage Center, visitors can take a walk back in time to find out more about the people and events that spurred the growth and development of Springfield as a city. 

"The main gist of the museum is trying to tell different stories throughout the community," Fritz says. "We're always collecting to tell more and do more and share more."

And events like Wizarding Weekend help get new visitors in the museum's door to do just that. While visitors might come for the event, many will take time to explore the Historical Society while they're there and even plan a return visit to take in the rest of the museum at another time. 

"This is the biggest, most ambitious event we've done," It's a good way to bring in different audiences while still tying in the history but also adding new elements.

"We are trying to tie in the community element in hopes that people who come for Wizarding World events will check out other new places Downtown also."

The weekend's events include a family-friendly Open House Fair from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, which includes crafts, activities, owls and a costume contest. Saturday, Oct. 8, brings the Heritage School of Wizardry Showcase from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This family-friendly day will be full of wizarding classes, photo opportunities, street performances, and activities, including a horcrux search thorugh Downtown Springfield.

Saturday night from 6 to 10 p.m., guests 21 and older are invited to the Wizards' Ball to enjoy dancing, dueling, drinks and games. Free childcare will be provided at the Springfield Family YMCA for children in grades 1-6 who have guardians attending the Wizards' Ball. Space is limited, so contact [email protected] for more information and to register.

Additional information about the events of the weekend can be found on the Springfield's Wizarding Weekend event page, and tickets can be purchased for single events or for the whole weekend here

Additionally, the Clark County Public Library's main brach will be hosting a class for children ages 7 to 18 to make their own dragon egg. The event will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Gaier Room and will be limited to the first 50 students to attend.

Wizardly artists can also register for a separate event hosted by Sip & Dipity Paint Bar. Paint Your Own Owl classes will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Heritage Center's Bushnell Common Room. To register, visit the Sip & Dipity event's page.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.