Spring is in the air with 100,000 tulips in bloom at the American Village in Montevallo.
Even more so, there’s a feeling of excitement as visitors young and old watch the unfolding Liberty Program, with stories about the nation’s early presidents. Pure delight was evident as second-graders from Chelsea Park Elementary School watched expertly presented shows about Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and presidential leadership styles and roles.
Melissa Topazi, a special education teacher at Chelsea Park Elementary for 19 years, said that she and her students enjoyed the day.
Second-grade teacher Erin Moody said that her students’ Feb. 27 visit to The American Village came at the perfect time. Children were thrilled to see and touch replicas of the Liberty Bell and the Oval Office.
“We have a lot of repeat teaching at the end of the year,” said Moody, a first-year teacher at Chelsea Park Elementary, who earned her childhood education degree at UAB. “This was a really special treat for our students. The American Village makes the program interactive for all the children.”
They got the chance to learn a lot, and the shows were so much fun,” said second-grade teacher Topazi, who earned degrees at Samford University and UAB. “They learned that our president has to wear many hats.”
Visitors may enjoy the presidential program each weekday, starting at 9:30 a.m., through March 30.
The learning style is all about fun
Chelsea Park second-grade students, transported to The American Village campus in three yellow school buses, started their day with an interactive program about Lincoln’s childhood and his presidency. American Village songstress and historical interpreter Amy Bell placed students in teams, giving each team a large puzzle piece. The children watched and listened intently as Bell sang from memory a story about Lincoln.
During her presentation, Bell called each group to add their puzzle pieces, eventually revealing a portrait of Lincoln in his famous top hat.
A rousing game-show style presentation, the “Two Georges,” informed listeners about the contrasting leadership styles between the nation’s first president and King George III of Great Britain.
Longtime American Village historical interpreter Lesli Johnson used the book “Woodrow, the White House Mouse” to tell about the nation’s 28th president and his wife, Bess. Every child had the chance to take part during the show. At one point, children donned mouse ears and dark glasses, similar to the characters in the book.
“We make sure our interactive programs are about 15 to 20 minutes so that we keep children’s interest,” said Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in performing arts at Samford University and has worked at the American Village for nearly 10 years. “This meets early childhood requirements for kindergarten to third-grade students. You don’t want to lose their attention.”
Afterward, students, teachers and room mothers settled at the Village’s expansive picnic ground for lunch.
“It’s been a beautiful day,” Moody said. “This is perfect for children.”
Calling all flower-lovers to annual Tulip Festival
Driving into the American Village, it’s easy to spot the tulip fields at the right of the campus, awash in red, pink, yellow, purple and white blooms, including ruffled and striped varieties. This is their second year to plant the bevy of blooms.
Melanie Poole, communications officer at the American Village, said the Liberty Program and the Festival of Tulips – with the many historic replicas of buildings from the Revolutionary era – are attracting many guests.
“We want our guests to experience firsthand the power and drama of America’s revolutionary founding,” said Poole, who has represented the American Village since 2011. “Each of the liberty vignettes has one or two take-aways that everyone will be able to remember. Sometimes, we have three or four schools a day. When children are at the dinner table with their parents, we want them to discuss the things that they learned.”
“The American Village is the perfect place to spend a day,” she said.
Festival dates: The Festival of Tulips continues for as long as tulips are blooming.
Flower price: Tulips are $1.50 per stem and bulb.
Admission: Weekday admission is $10, and weekend admission is $5. Veterans, active military and children 4 and under are free.