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Jon Weiand/Sentinel A group of children make handmade candels at the Santa Cruz Mission Saturday.

SANTA CRUZ -- Several children made candles Saturday during a weekly drop-in craft day at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, giving them a chance to consider what life was like before electricity.

The candle making was done outside, in the scenic courtyard of an adobe building constructed by native California Indians from 1822 to 1824. There, a ranger demonstrated the simple creation briefly, using warm wax simmering in a large metal pot.

Most of the small crowd were fourth-graders who came to visit the mission because they are in the midst of school projects on the California missions.

Cyndee Forbes of Antelope was visiting with her 9-year-old daughter, Amanda, her 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and her mom, Hazel Flora of Modesto.

"This is her mission for her project," Forbes said. "This is great; it lets you see how time-consuming it was to make things we take for granted now. It's a living history for the kids."

Forbes said they also toured the adobe and found it interesting that the seven intact rooms, of an original 17, were lived in until 1983.

Mary Hanratty, 9, of Fairfield also chose the Santa Cruz Mission for her school mission project.

And not entirely for the historic value, she said.

"Because of the Boardwalk and stuff," Hanratty said, with a smile.

She added that the candle making was "really cool," urging her mom to make one so that she could help.


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Her mom, Candy Hanratty, said the experience reminded her of her grandmother, who used a pump to pull water into her home in Moorseville, Ind., years ago, and used a pot-belly stove to heat it.

Other families at the free craft event Saturday were from Modesto and Chatsworth, and they also had fourth-graders in tow. Some said they were visiting several missions.

"That's definitely a large audience for us," said Marianne Chance, a park aide who led the candle-making activity.

Chance told the group the wax in the mission days would have come from tallow, from cows.

One young participant, Emma Morgan, was from Santa Cruz.

Her parents and older brother, Matthew, visited Saturday because Emma missed a tour of the mission with her third-grade class at Delaveaga Elementary, during a study of Ohlone Indians, said her mom, Millie Sigala.

"We love it," Sigala said. "We've been here a few times."

Chance said the park hosts free drop-in craft days at 1 p.m. each Saturday in December and hands-on demonstrations that include creating items from the mission era at 1 p.m. Saturdays during the rest of the year. The adobe museum is open to the public then also.

Upcoming activities include wool and weaving, with participants creating a bracelet, on Jan. 5; tortilla making on Jan. 12; adobe brick construction on Jan. 19, and a hides and tallow demonstration Jan. 26, with more candle making.

The Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is at the end of School Street off Emmet Street near Holy Cross Church, behind Holy Cross School. For information, call 831-425-5849.

Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9