August Court Days, an annual reenactment of the opening of the county's judicial court during the mid-1700s, drew 20,000 area residents to Leesburg last weekend.
A four-block area, blocked off to traffic, was teeming with people crowding into the craft and food booths Saturday and Sunday.
But the courthouse lawn was the focus of attention. There was entertainment in abundance: an orchestra named Musick Virginia that played period instruments while dressed in colonial costume, folk, country and blues musicians, a fife and drum corps and a hurdy-gurdy man.
The Maryland Militia showed how to set up camp and cook, and demonstrated Revolutionary War weapons. And most important to the festivities, a reenactment of the 200-year-old event, based on court records, was played out on a stage in front of the old courthouse.
This year, Waterford resident Raymond Baine wrote a play that demonstrated how the wives of prominent Loudoun citizens argued with their husbands on the wisdom of ratifying the Constitution. What follows is a sample bit of dialogue between Gen. Stevens Thomson Mason and his wife, played by the husband and wife team of Harry and Sally Herndon.
She: "I agree with Benjamin Franklin. He said, 'I consent to this constitution because I expect no better and I'm not sure that it is not the best.' And he hopes that every member who dislikes it will keep his mouth shut."
He: "Where did you pick that up?"
She: "I learned to read at a very early age."
The women in the audience especially enjoyed the on-stage marital give and take. There was enthusiastic applause every time one of the wives got the better of her husband in an argument.
"I'd like to believe the wives really did that -- and that the men respected their opinions that much," said Christine Gingras, of Bel Air, Md.
"I have no personal knowledge that they argued like that," said Baine, "but certainly we know Abigail Adams argued with John -- and advised him well. There is no reason not to believe that Loudoun wives did the same."
Five-year-old Nathan Begel played on the courthouse lawn with a carved wooden gun his father had purchased at one of the craft booths. His favorite attraction of the day: the Maryland Militia. "I like the guns and I love the uniforms," he said. "When I grow up I want to be a soldier."
The music and the crowd were occasionally drowned out by a loud report from one of the muskets fired by the militia. But the sound that drew people to the courthouse's cast iron fence was the voice of a nagging woman, referred to in the playbill as "a common scold." The crowd laughed as she shrieked in indignation while her "husband" dragged her from the stage to the dunking pond, the traditional punishment for such disagreeable ladies in the 18th century.
The opening of court days took place in August, according to coordinator Joby Reynolds. Rural counties such as Loudoun were usually in between planting and harvesting and there was usually little rain. People came to the county seat to conduct their official business and the local craftsmen came too, touting their wares. Music and food accompanied the celebration, as it does today, Reynolds said.
This year's continuous entertainment was provided by the Bluemont Concert Series. Proceeds since the event began making a profit eight years ago go toward various restoration projects in the county.