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Marking city's origins

Hundreds of Lexingtonians visited McConnell Springs Saturday to experience the music, pastimes and natural surroundings the city's first residents would have enjoyed 234 years ago.

After taking a tour and checking out woodcarving crafts at the city's 15th annual Founders' Day celebration, Michael Rehorn, 9, tried his hand at tomahawk throwing, then ran his fingers along the hides of wildlife native to the area, such as raccoons, bears and coyotes.

"He's come to love history, and I think it's because of events like this," said his mother, Angela Rehorn.

Denis Pike Sr., 91, said he has lived in Lexington since 1956, but Saturday was his first visit to McConnell Springs.

"I never knew about this," he said. "It's a beautiful trail ... very interesting."

Founders' Day commemorates the city's origins, which date to 1775, when William McConnell's band of explorers learned that the first battle of the Revolutionary War had been fought in Lexington, Mass. So they named the area near the springs where they were camping Lexington. Four years later, a larger group returned to the same site and built a permanent settlement.

"They wanted a place to call home, a piece of land to call their own, and the freedom to worship their God," said Steven Caudill, of Winchester, who works full-time portraying Daniel Boone. "The community in which we live here, it all started right here."

For the past several years, Armed Forces Day has fallen on the same day as Founders' Day, so this year the city combined the two observances.

"We've had a number of veterans and current military coming by," said Jim Rebmann, who organizes the event. "It's worked out very well."

Attendance was down because overcast skies threatened rain throughout the day. Rebmann said 1,000 to 1,200 people typically attend; he expected a turnout of about half that this year.

"What was here was enthusiastic, and that's the most important thing," said Debra Watkins, of the Lexington History Museum.