This weekend has been a busy one for the Barker Mansion. Yesterday and today, Saturday and Sunday, the mansion had the Doll Tea Party event. Every year, the mansion opens its doors for families to come in and enjoy some late afternoon tea. The families are able to walk around the mansion, make crafts, and see the garden.
In the past, the event was known as the American Girl Doll Tea Party. Only girls with an American Girl Doll were allowed to participate in the event. However, in recent times, the event has changed to simply Doll Tea Party and is more inclusive to people. Girls aren’t required to have an American Girl Doll to be a part of the event, they are still encouraged to bring a doll if they have one.
This event is one of the more well known events presented by the mansion. There were families from both days that have done the Doll Tea Party in the past. This event is also one that fills up quickly. As I walked around and talked to some of the families, some mentioned how they tried signing up in the past only to learn both days were fully booked.
The interesting part about this event is that it is treated, and seen, as a mother-daughter event. Now, this doesn’t mean that only mothers and their daughters are able to partake, there were some grandmothers, aunts, and even a few fathers both days. It’s just more common to see mothers come with their daughters. The actual interesting part of it being a mother-daughter event is that some of the mothers that I spoke to have been coming to the mansion since they were children.
One of the moms I had the opportunity to speak with was Nora Liss. This was the first time she and her daughter took part in the Doll Tea Party. They tried the previous year, but it had been completely booked. Nora told me how excited her daughter was to come to the mansion and have tea and make crafts. Nora mentioned to me that she has been visiting the mansion since she was a child. She remembered coming to mansion and learning the history it has with Michigan City. She credits the mansion to an extent with facilitating her love for architecture. For her, Nora recalled gaining an interest in history due to her visits to the mansion. Nora believes events like the Doll Tea Party and the many other events that encourage children’s involvement are revitalizing the mansion. Another aspect that Nora enjoys is that since Catherine grew up in the mansion it allows for children like her daughter to relate more with the mansion. Her and her daughter have been to the mansion before. Whenever there is an event that promotes family involvement, Nora and her husband make sure to bring their two kids for the fun, learning experience.
I also had the chance to talk with two other families, Stephanee Vega and her daughter Vanessa and Amanda Gillisse and her daughter Lila. Stephanee and Vanessa have done the Doll Tea Party before while this was the time for Amanda and Lila. However, all four have been to the mansion for other events and tours in the past. Vanessa enjoys learning new facts about the mansion, and Lila enjoys seeing the different rooms of the mansion. Both Stephanee and Amanda have been to the mansion many times since they were kids. They mentioned how they seem to always learn something new with each visit. Stephanee told me that she loves that the mansion gives the ability to learn about history. Amanda shared that she sees more life in the mansion now from when she was kid and even compared to a few years ago. Stephanee agreed and sees the mansion as a place where the community is a bigger part of it now. They both love the idea of the community being involved. Both appreciate being able to bring their daughters to events like the Doll Tea Party. They hope to do the event with their daughters in the future when Vanessa and Lila have daughters of their own.
The last two days have been very busy for the mansion with having to set everything up and then entertain the two parties. It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The families enjoyed themselves and had fun. That’s all we can ask for. Learning that some of the moms used to visit the mansion when they were kids and now continue to visit with their kids is fascinating and awesome. Tradition is a big part of the Barker Mansion. To learn that some families have made traditions involving the mansion is truly awe-inspiring.