Billed as a quiet refuge in the Los Angeles megalopolis, Los Encinos State Historic Park boasts a natural spring that Native American tribes used for thousands of years. The spring feeds a flourishing duck pond that attracts parents and children alike to the tranquil surroundings. It's also a great place for picnics, parties and weddings.
But few people are aware that every third Sunday of the month from 1-3 p.m., a living history program at the park features a working blacksmith shop, 19th-century children's games, traditional music and volunteers in authentic historical costume.
Reseda resident Walter Nelson, formally the president and now a member of the docent association, is one of the volunteers who enjoys donning a costume and singing the songs of a bygone era.
"I've been a volunteer here at this park since 1988," Nelson said. "I have a lifelong interest in history so I've been supporting this event a long time."
People can see how people lived back in the day, he continued. "We focus everything on the 1870s, which was the period that this was a sheep ranch. It's also the period that many of these buildings date from," except for the De la Osa Adobe, built by Vincente De La Osa that dates to 1849.
Tom Willson, a Simi Valley resident, has been a volunteer since 2005. "I enjoy re-enacting historic times and places, and Los Encinos Park is a great place to do that." Willson brought his 'fiddle' to entertain visitors during the event.
Onlookers watched in fascination as West Hills resident Gary Standke demonstrated his blacksmithing skills.
"I like to show people how things used to be done, to give them a better appreciation of how things were once made by hand," Standke said.
The shop features many artifacts similar to the ones used in the 1870s, including a working furnace for heating metal and an assortment of hand tools.
Park Interpreter Specialist Jennifer Dandurand said park officials want more people to discover the historical nature of the park, whether through school field trips or the living history program.
Dandurand said anywhere from 10 to 50 people show up for the event each month. She estimated that upwards of 100 people visit the five-acre park during the week and 150 on the weekends.
Encino resident Michael Paul attended the family-friendly event for the first time last month, even though he's been to the park itself many times before. "I'll definitely tell my friends to come next time," he said.
In addition to the living history program, the park offers complimentary tours of the newly re-opened De la Osa Adobe. Tours are offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting at 2 p.m., by reservation. Admission is free.
For information regarding community support, educational programs or volunteer opportunities, contact the park docents: Los Encinos Docents Association, c/o Mike Crosby, 16756 Moorpark St., Encino, CA 91436. E-mail: email@example.com.