People don’t drink much switchel anymore. But the water, vinegar and ginger drink was mighty popular in the American Colonies. In the 19th century, the drink was served to thirsty farmers during harvest time and was often sweetened with honey, sugar or syrup.

Switchel was the Gatorade of yesteryear.

Folks interested in a switchel sample — and a day of activities that hearken back to bygone times — can head to the eighth annual Punkinfiddle festival at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm in Wells on Saturday.

Part of the event’s goal is getting visitors to “touch the past, look back toward the traditions people had,” said Scott Richardson, communications director for the Laudholm Trust and the Wells Reserve. Richardson hopes Punkinfiddle attendees will learn something about the past and envision how the land looked and functioned when it was a working farm.

The one-day festival is a nod to the way Maine used to be — but also a celebration of what Maine still is.

Area craftspeople will demonstrate an array of traditional arts such as stone masonry, making folk instruments, wool making, felting and spinning, beekeeping and chair caning.

“The focus has always been on demonstrating how things are done,” Richardson said. “The fiddle maker is really good at explaining how they are built — sharing the knowledge.”

Local musicians will keep the air filled with music throughout the day, beginning with Paul Wells and Sally Sommers Smith at 10:30 a.m. David Surette and Isa Burke play traditional and New England-based fiddle tunes at noon. At 1:30 p.m., Erica Brown and Matt Shipman take over.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the reserve on a docent-led tour or a self-guided walk on the Laird-Norton boardwalk.

“It’s meant to be contemplative,” Richardson said. “Take a few moments to just listen to the environment.”

There will be plenty of action as well, with a tug of war, sack races, a parachute game and a water cycle. Festival attendees can get creative with their pumpkin decorating, using natural materials like flowers and grass. And the kids can design their own estuary crowns and paper-bag estuary bird puppets. There will also be a scavenger hunt throughout the estuary, where participants will locate signs that clue them in to an array of environmental features.

Visitors can also check out the Wells Farmers Market, friendly farm animals and old tractors and farm equipment. Wagon and pony rides will be available for a small fee for the little ones.

Since there’s plenty to keep people busy for the day, Richardson said it’s never a bad idea to arrive early.

“We do our best to get plenty of supplies, but we sometimes run out of materials,” he said.

Nearly all of the events and activities are included in the $15 carload fee, so visitors can take advantage by sharing rides and piling in. Donations are always welcome, Richardson said, but fundraising isn’t the event’s main purpose.

“It’s to get people together and to introduce them to the site,” he said. “Surprisingly, some people don’t even know it’s here.”

Thanks to Punkinfiddle, plenty of folks will know the Wells Reserve exists. They may also discover they have a penchant for water, vinegar and ginger beverages.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be reached at 791-6333 or at:

[email protected]