Meadowcroft celebrates America’s roots

AVELLA, Pa. – Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life honored America’s roots with a Fourth of July celebration that harkened back to the 19th century.

The celebration included a recitation of the Declaration of Independence in the Fairview Church at the 19th century village, along with blacksmithing demonstrations and demonstration of popular 19th century children’s games. At the 15th century Monongahela American Indian village, museum interpreters demonstrated corn-grinding and atlatl throwing, and, at the 17th century frontier trading post and American Indian cabin, interpreters demonstrated open-hearth cooking and axe-throwing.

Museum employees Sheila Adams and Sarah Zizina lead guests in a variety of traditional 19th century games, including an egg toss, three-legged race, wheel-barrow race, pie-eating contest, watermelon seed-spitting contest and tug-of-war, with ribbons given to the first, second and third place winners and prizes awarded.

“These are traditional games of the early 1800s,” she said.

Adams said the museum has hosted the games for approximately 15 years, and she has overseen them for approximately 10 years.

The number of participants partially depends on the weather, but there are several families who make the museum part of their Fourth of July celebration and return each year, she said.

“We have more than 100 here today,” she said.

This year, she is assisted by new employee Zizina of McDonald, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in museum study.

“I love Meadowcroft, and I’m thrilled to be here,” she said, adding she’d grown up in nearby Allegheny County and childhood visits to the museum was one of the inspirations to pursue work in a museum.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at