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Firing up the past

Traditions event teaches ancient skill of fire-making

POSTED: August 16, 2012 12:30 a.m.

In a world overflowing with gidgets and gadgets, sometimes it’s nice to get back to the basics.

It is precisely that line of thinking that inspired the Northeast Georgia History Center to launch the Forgotten Past: Keeping Traditions Alive educational program.

“On Saturday morning, we have the first of a series of five classes intended to teach our audience the old ways of the traditional methods and techniques our ancestors used as a matter of course in their lives,” said Julie Carson, center education and volunteer coordinator.

The first class, “Fire as a Tool” will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the center, 322 Academy St. NE in Gainesville. The cost for each session varies depending on materials needed, but the fee for this month’s class is $40 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

Advance registration is encouraged, but walk-ins will be accepted as long as space allows.

For this week’s class, participants will learn different ways to start a fire, without the help of matches.

“This topic was part of our summer camp, ‘Our Appalachian Heritage,’” Carson said.

“Campers learned how to start a fire using tinder, flint and steel. Then they lit a campfire.

“Some of the volunteers said, ‘The kids have all the fun. When are the adults going to have a chance to learn?’ So we decided to create a class for the adults.”

Although the series is intended for grown-ups, children ages 11 and older will also be allowed to attend.

In addition to learning how to start a fire the old-fashioned way, participants will also make a bowl from tulip wood under the guidance of Dean Smith, folk naturalist.

The Forgotten Past classes will be held on the third Saturday of each month through the end of the year.

The classes cover a range of skills, including teaching participants how to identify wild edibles, cook outdoors and create holiday crafts from items found in nature.

Find a complete list of classes and dates online at


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