First ever Woodland Heritage Festival set for Sept. 30 at Woodland Park

By Lynn R. Parks

Visitors to the Nanticoke Heritage Festival wont be able to go into the historic Woodland School, currently under renovation. The all-volunteer effort to restore the early 20th-century building is not quite complete, said Donna Steinbiss, founder of the Woodland School House Association.

Weve made a lot of progress in just 17 weeks, Steinbiss said. Volunteers have put in 2,500 hours so far, she added.

On the day of the festival, though, the front door to the schoolhouse will be open. Visitors will be able to peer inside to see the progress that has been made so far.

The festival, the first ever, will be held Sept. 30 at Woodland Park, the site of the schoolhouse. In addition to showcasing the school, the festival is also designed to draw attention to the nearby Nanticoke River and to the Nanticoke Heritage Byway, a driving tour that goes from the Hearn and Rawlins Mill near Seaford to Old Christ Church east of Laurel, and which goes by the park and school.

Features will include an antique car show, food vendors, arts and crafts, a farmers market and childrens activities. The 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry, Civil War reenactors from the Living History Society of Delaware, will set up camp there and will have demonstrations throughout the day.

Bands will include the Jones Boys and Charlie and the Cool Tones. Organizations, including the Nanticoke Indian Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, Woodland United Methodist Church and the Woodland Ferry Association, will have information booths.

Renovation work on the Woodland School started in May.

Volunteers have removed walls, ripped up carpet and pulled out plumbing.

The goal is to return the building to its original footprint, Steinbiss said. The schoolhouse was 18 by 24 feet and had just one floor, with space above that may have been used for storage. The renovation has included tearing down additions and eliminating dormers to restore the original roofline. Still on the agenda is construction of a new front foyer to replicate the foyer that was originally there.

Steinbiss, a retired teacher, said that the association wants the school to eventually be used as classroom space. Students can visit the park and schoolhouse for lessons in a variety of subjects, including history, ecology and biology, she said. Already, she has talked with teachers at Seaford High School about using the site for projects for students in the Future Farmers of America group, and to elementary school teachers about having fourth-graders who are studying Delaware history visit.

We dont want this to be just a museum, she said. We want to have kids actually sitting at the desks and teachers holding class.

If you go: The first ever Woodland Heritage Festival will be Saturday, Sept. 30, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Woodland Park and Woodland School, 27866 Woodland Road, Seaford. Admission is free, but parking costs $2 per car. For information, call 629-8528 or email woodlandschool2017@gmail.com. Donations to help with the renovation of the schoolhouse can be sent to the Woodland School House Association, PO Box 511, Seaford DE 19973.

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