Stepping forward into history

By Keith Strange Staff Reporter

November 30, 2013

When the more than 200 entries step off the curb this morning for the annual Mount Airy Christmas Parade, among them will be a first-time, award-winning entry.

This year, the parade entries will include the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s Jessie Franklin Pioneers Chapter of the Tarheel Junior Historians Association.

While that may be a mouthful, Matt Edwards, museum director, says the accomplishments of the primarily fourth and fifth-grade historians is nothing to scoff at.

“Oh, wow,” Edwards said of the 12-member group’s multiple awards. “This club has a very strong track record in the state. They have been named chapter of the year multiple times, and every year it seems we’re winning some award or other for the work these kids have done. It certainly speaks well of the dedication they’ve had over a long period of time.”

The junior historians are made up of students from three area schools.

“That’s one of the things that makes this chapter unique,” Edwards said. “A lot of the groups in the state come from a single school or organization.”

When they step out into the sunlight for the parade, Edwards said the group will be dressed in period costume.

“They’re going to be invading the museum’s teaching collection of costumes,” he said. “We have one of them who will be in a Civil War uniform and others will be wearing period dresses and outfits.”

The museum director said the reason they are entering the parade this year is simple.

“Part of it is visibility for the hard work these kids have done,” he said. “We also want people to know the club is here and active in the community.

“This is a chance for the kids to really have fun with history and do so publicly.”

Another goal for the club in 2014 is to be more community-oriented and involved, Edwards added.

“In March, they will be presenting an oral history project related to the area during the Surry County Fiddler’s Convention,” he said. “We want them to be out in the community more in the future because they have so much to offer. Rather than have them do a traditional research project like they’ve done over the past several years, we wanted to find a way for them to get out and become more involved in the community.”

Traditionally, the group has been heavily involved in state history competitions that can range from audio/video projects to research on a specific object to research papers and tests, according to Edwards.

He added that is is great to see children as young as nine so interested in the history of the area, but noted that kids will be kids.

“We have a core group of kids who are really interested in history, and they brought their friends with them,” Edwards said. “Then once they get here they have fun with what we’re doing and become part of that core group.

“We hope that introducing them to history early on will carry over into their later academic and adult lives.”

This year’s parade kicks off at 9 a.m.

Reach Keith Strange at or 719-1929.