News from Garfield Farm

Return to News Index | Garfield Farm Home

Pastoral Summer Picnic Dinner & Sunset Contra Dance July 18

CAMPTON HILLS, IL      On Saturday, July 18 at 6 pm Garfield Farm Museum will hold a Pastoral Summer Picnic Dinner and Sunset Contra Dance to raise funds for the restoration of Garfield Farm Museum’s oldest building, the 1842 hay and grain barn.

      Held in the courtyard of the historic Atwell Burr House, the dinner and dance will be bathed in the rays of the setting summer sun, overlooking the rolling, green fields of Garfield Farm. The dance will be led by Donna Benkert of the Acorn Folklore Center in Warrenville, IL as she calls the steps to the sound of dulcimers, penny whistle, guitar and fiddle by the Scantlin’ Reunion.

      Contras are performed by two lines of dancers facing each other. Partners dance up and then down the lines just as partners travel around a square in quadrille or square dances. These dances are easy to learn and before the evening is out, one will have danced with all the other dancers.

     These were the traditional dances that everyone in America knew from the 18th to the early 20th century. Gentlemen and ladies might attend a dance alone but with proper introductions by the dance managers, they would partner for the evening yet dance every other 4 or 8 musical beats with their neighboring partner. 

     With dinner items made from scratch by Inglenook Pantry, chicken and pork, to homemade pies, the evening will recall simpler times. Good food, merriment and dance are just the spirit needed to help meet Garfield Farm’s preservation responsibilities. Timothy Garfield felled and hewed the timbers to his barn in February of 1842. On April 13, 50 neighbors came to raise the framing and by June, siding and roofing of this classic 3 bay English barn were completed. Twenty two years later, Robert Garfield, heir to the farm, moved this barn to a hillside where a dug out cellar added space for a herd of dairy cows. In 1911, it was moved to its present location and adapted for use as a machine shed. An anticipated $300,000 restoration of this rarity will be taken on in phases. A lightening strike in 2005 damaged the southern peak of the roof but before it can be restored, the south wall of the barn needs attention. A goal of $40,000 to undertake this work has been set. The evening’s dinner and dance will kick off this effort.

      Tickets for the benefit are $75 apiece with $50 going to the barn’s restoration. To reserve tickets call 630 584-8485 or e-mail Sponsors for the evening are also welcome and should contact the museum.

      The historically intact 370 acre Garfield Farm Museum is being restored as an 1840s working farm to demonstrate the relevancy of past lessons learned to the challenges of today and the future. Since 1977, volunteers and donors from over 2800 households representing 38 states and 4 countries have worked to preserve the farmland. buildings and prairie that make up this singularly rare site. 

     Garfield Farm Museum is located five miles west of Geneva, IL off Il Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.