WESTVILLE — Tucked away in a remote corner of Forest Glen County Preserve east of Westville stands the Pioneer Homestead.
Today, anywhere from 100 to 300 visitors will make the trek down the leaf-encrusted foot path to a one-room cabin constructed of logs of a yellow poplar, which is a tree native to the area.
During the county preserve’s annual Thanksgiving at the Cabin, visitors not only learn what the area’s first settlers might have eaten and how they cooked it over an open fire, but they also get to sample delicacies made from ingredients that are locally grown and gathered.
Susan Biggs-Warner, a historic interpreter with the Vermilion County Conservation District, has been involved with the cooking demonstration since it started a year or two after the cabin was built in the mid-1980s.
When Thanksgiving at the Cabin began 25 years ago or so, the public was invited to watch as the food was prepared and cooked over an open fire, but it was the conservation district staff who enjoyed the meal.
For a few years, the Revolutionary War re-enactors also helped prepare the meal that they then shared with the conservation district employees.
In recent years, Civil War re-enactor Robert Hale from the Chrisman/Paris area and Ridge Farm librarian Lisa Davis join Biggs-Warner and conservation district program secretary Amy Steeples in dressing up in period costumes and cooking over an open fire.
This year, Thanksgiving at the Cabin is a stop on the Georgetown Holiday Gathering map.
While some visitors come prepared to eat a full meal — and in the past some even have brought their own table service — Biggs-Warner emphasized that the event is a cooking demonstration during which samples are served.
“Visitors will be able to sample food inside the cabin and outdoors,” she said.