Centennial Celebration of Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories - TribPapers

Centennial Celebration of Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories

The year's cast at the Carl Sandburg Ampitheater in Flat Rock for the free plays of Rootabaga Express!

Flat Rock – From June 16th to August 13th at the Sandburg home, Connemara in Flat Rock, the apprentice actors from the Flat Rock Playhouse Vagabond School of the Drama will perform Rootabaga Express! This fun-loving, lively show was written by Ethan Andersen, a former Apprentice and current Resident Music Director, and directed and choreographed by Lauren Rogers Hopkins, a youth theatre alumni, former Apprentice Director, and the current Education Programs Manager.

Rootabaga Express! is based on Carl Sandburg’s series of children’s fiction, called Rootabaga Stories. These are delightful stories, filled with fanciful names, wonderful costumes,  and a story sure to delight and intrigue children of all ages. Who could not but smile at the thought of three little boys with names like Eeta Peeca Pie, Meeny Miney, and Miney Mo having secret ambitions to run away on a railway train?! These were born of Sandburg’s desire for “American fairy tales” to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving princes, princesses, castles, and kingdoms were inappropriate and so populated his stories with skyscrapers, trains, automobiles, and taxi drivers. Sandburg was an expert storyteller and easily wove important messages of fairness, empathy, and social justice into his writings.

Wrapping themselves ltogether is part of the fun from an earlier production. Photo courtesy of cottonmouths Treadway.

Performances will be from June 16 to August 13 at 10:15 a.m. at the amphitheater near Front Lake. These shows are held rain or shine and last 30 minutes with no performances June 30 and July 2. “We’re grateful to work with our partners at the Flat Rock Playhouse and offer these plays again, after a two-year pause due to COVID-19,” said Superintendent Polly Angelakis. “2022 is extra special since it marks the 100th anniversary of when Rootabaga Stories were first published.”

This year’s cast of Rootabaga Express! includes a cast of six apprentices as well as four local youth and alumni from the Playhouse’s Studio 52 education programs. Acting this year will be Cassidy Bowen, Gracie Todd, Joseph Sherer, Henry Cowan, Mady Bec Rogers, Louis Hansen, Jelani Bell, Michel Vasquez, Alex Pouloutides, and Henrique Sobrinho. The stories to be shown are: Gimme the Axe; Three Boys With Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions; How The Five Rusty Rats Helped Find A New Village; Never Kick A Slipper to the Moon; How Bimbo Stuck His Thumb To His Nose; How The Animals Lost Their Tails.

For young visitors who attend the plays, there is a Rootabaga Junior Ranger program available. Activity sheets will be available at the amphitheater after the play and can be turned in at the Sandburg Home for a limited edition “Rootabaga Ranger” badge.

Sandburg Sing-Alongs

In addition, a series of free monthly Sandburg Sing-alongs will be offered on the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. at the amphitheater. On June 14 and August 9, Carol Rifkin, a mountain award-winning vocalist, will lead a sing-and-strum-along. Bring a string instrument to play-along or just enjoy the music and singing. On July 12, Wayne Erbsen will present a fun evening of banjo-led stringing. The singalongs are sponsored by the Friends of Carl Sandburg in Connemara.

Monthly Writing Workshops

The traditional in-park residence program will not be held in 2022. Instead, you can join writers and poets from across the country each month for a virtual writing workshop. A link will be added to their name when more details and sign-up information become available. These workshops are geared towards amateur writers; ages 16 and older are recommended.

June 23 – Luke Hankins
July – Bonnie Antosh
August – Sarah Thomas
September – Reagan Payne

It was the desire of Mrs. Lilian Sandburg, when her family’s North Carolina home became a unit of the National Park Service in 1968, that Connemara continue to be a place of inspiration for future generations of writers. With the support of the Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, her idea of a Writer-in-Residence at the Carl Sandburg Home was first implemented in 2010.

This program offers early-career writers an opportunity to live and work at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. The farm manager’s home becomes theirs for three weeks. Housing with uninterrupted time to write is offered in an historic cottage near the Sandburg home. Tony Robles was the 2020 Writer-in-Residence, Susan Polizzotto was the 2019 Writer-in-Residence. Carlene Kucharczyk was the 2018 Writer-in-Residence.

This program is made possible through support from the Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara. If interested and needing additional information, contact the Education Coordinator at 828-693-4178 or by e-mail.

General Information 

Starting  June 16, free Sandburg Home tours will be available on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (4 days a week) at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Visitors will start the tour in the Visitor Center/Park Store, located on the ground floor of the Sandburg Home. Advance online ticket reservations are available via recreation.gov. All house tour tickets will continue to be free of charge until further notice. Although the ticket is free, there is a non-refundable $1.00 per ticket online processing fee. Advance reservations are encouraged as day-of-visit, walk-up tickets may not be available during the busy season.
The park grounds and trails are open from sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets are allowed on trails and grounds. Outdoor access to the goats (in the barnyard and goat pasture) is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. You can take a peek into the morning routine of the dairy goats at Connemara. Access to the grounds, trails, and goats is free. Visitors should follow CDC guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For your health and the safety of others, please choose another time to visit if you are not feeling well.