Vallecito Valley, California - Your kids think they have it so rough? Round them up and take them to Vallecito Day, a free festival, for a taste of life during the 1860s.

You’ll all be amazed at how different life was back then and more than a little enthralled at how people dressed, cooked on an open hearth, made soap and lived as pioneers.

The free eighth annual event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday March 15 at Vallecito County Park.  

“Kids and their parents can learn a bit about San Diego County history and experience for themselves what hardships pioneers endured to survive in this part of the west,” said Parks and Recreation Director Brian Albright.

The festival highlights the role the Vallecito Stage Station played as a stop for the San Antonio-San Diego mail delivery service and the Butterfield Overland Stage Service. Thousands of travelers passed through what is now Vallecito County Park to begin new lives out west.

During the Civil War, Union volunteers marched east across the desert to ensure those regions wouldn’t fall to the Confederate Army in Arizona and New Mexico. They all stopped to rest at the stage station before moving on.

On Saturday, the Backcountry Horsemen of California and horseback riders from the Ramona Trails Association will wear period costumes and re-enact the delivery of the mail to the Vallecito stage station. Mountain men such as trappers and hunters will set up camp as they did in the 1800s.

Visitors can tour the Vallecito Stage Station, see demonstrations on how to spark a fire with flint and steel, and get hands-on experience in how to pack a mule.   

No food will be available at the site so make a day of it and bring a picnic lunch. The park is located south of Shelter Valley at 37349 County Route S-2 (Mile Marker 34-35) Vallecito Valley, CA 92036. For more on the park and how to get there, see these directions. For more information, call (760) 765-1188.