For someone 200 years old, Abraham Lincoln was in fine form yesterday - cracking jokes, posing for photos, wandering around Independence Mall, nodding at the tourists who gathered to celebrate his birthday.
Joey Goeckerman, 8, was a little in awe of the towering figure in a black wool suit and stovepipe hat, but was determined to ask Abe a question anyway.
"What was it like, living back then?" Joey, of Collingdale, asked, craning his neck to get a better view of the 16th president as portrayed by Fritz Klein, a nationally recognized Lincoln scholar and actor from Springfield, Ill.
"It was a lot harder than it is now," Klein-as-Lincoln said solemnly. "When we wanted to go somewhere, we walked there."
So what was Joey's take on Lincoln 200, a bicentennial birthday festival of live entertainment, Lincoln artifacts, and interactive exhibits that runs through tomorrow?
"Awesome," Joey said, nodding. "I thought that Abe Lincoln was just a spirit, but he's right here."
Nearby, Dianne Semingson beamed. Semingson and Mary Hagy, co-founders of the festival, dreamed up the idea for a Lincoln 200th birthday party years ago and began working on it in earnest in 2007. Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in Kentucky.
Semingson and Hagy based their idea on the Great Central Fair, an 1864 event held in Logan Square to raise money for Union troops. Lincoln 200 is taking place on Independence Mall, a few blocks from where Lincoln stood in 1861 and vowed that he would rather be assassinated than compromise the principles of the Founding Fathers.
"This is a Philadelphia story that isn't often told," said Semingson. Lincoln visited the city often, and Philadelphia was an important town in the Civil War effort.
On the mall yesterday, luminaries such as Gen. George G. Meade, Frederick Douglass, and Clara Barton strolled the lawn. There were movies to watch, troops in Union uniforms performing drills, and stations where children made stovepipe hats.
At an exhibit where the city arts group the Dumpster Divers encouraged people to use found objects to create a sculpture honoring Lincoln, a little girl had tacked up a letter she wrote to the 16th president.
"Dear President Lincoln," she wrote. "I'm sorry that you died."
Meade - "that's Gen. George GORDON Meade," he boomed - was portrayed by Temple University history professor Andy Waskie, an enthusiastic Lincoln 200 supporter.
"It's good to remember that we're not just a Revolutionary town," Waskie said.
Kara Napolitan didn't know much about Lincoln's Philadelphia ties, but she said she was enjoying discovering them. The 16-year-old from Bensalem came to the festival with sister Trisha, 25, and Trisha's fiance, Carlos Wiggins, also 25, from North Philadelphia.
Napolitan sat at a computer, updating Lincoln200Phila's status on Twitter, one of dozens of activities visitors could choose from.
"We went from white America to a huge melting pot of every culture mixing to be one. INdependence and freedom is great," she wrote.
Inside a tent where artifacts such as a locket containing Lincoln's hair, an 1864 campaign pin, and the pen used to sign Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's commission drew the curious, volunteer Lynn Rauscher of Pennsauken dispensed Lincoln trivia.
When a family approached a cast of Lincoln's face and hands, Rauscher eyed the little girl in the group.
"He looks very young here. See? He has no beard. He didn't grow one until a little girl wrote him a letter and said, 'Dear Mr. President, I think you would look nice with a beard,'" Rauscher said.
Neighbors Joanna Whitley and Bill and Carol Price, avid Civil War buffs from Magnolia, were keen to shake Lincoln's hand.
Whitley, 58, thanked Lincoln for freeing the slaves, stood for a photo with him, and asked him if he owned slaves.
"No," he said quickly. "We had hired help - servants. Only paid staff. Some were black, some were white, but all were paid."
Then he looked down at her, switching gears.
"If you eat a lot of grapes, you know, your hair turns purple," Lincoln said, nodding at Whitley's hair, which was streaked with a deep purple color.
She dissolved into laughter. Who knew the 16th president had a sense of humor?
"Lincoln," Whitley said, "is funny."