On September 24 and 25 I’m going to be at the Prairie Days at Shawnee Prairie Preserve near Greenville, Ohio. Held annually the last full weekend of September, this event focuses on the prairie way of life in and around 1780–1810 and will feature, crafts, games, and reenactors demonstrating the trades of the time period. This annual free family event attracts around 4,000 people to Shawnee Prairie Preserve each year. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come out and join us.
Although I’ve attended a number of reenactment events and visited many historical sites such as Williamsburg over the years, this will be my first foray into the reenactor’s world as more than just a spectator. I decided to go dressed in period-appropriate costume, so I’m in the process of assembling my ensemble—which is a lot of fun in and of itself! I was invited by a young woman who e-mailed a few years ago to tell me how much she enjoyed the American Patriot Series, and we’ve kept in touch. Her parents are reenactors, and her father works at Shawnee Prairie. So this spring she asked if I’d like to participate in the festival. It sounded like a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the reenactor’s world, especially as I was also asked to help judge the pie baking contest. Yum!
All this has reminded me that for students and writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, events like this are wonderful research resources, as are historical sites such as Williamsburg that feature docents in period costume interpreting the lives of actual people of the day. But they’re equally enjoyable and profitable for anyone who is interested in the lives of people from earlier times. Actually walking through restored or recreated sites, handling period objects and seeing demonstrations of how they were used, tasting period dishes, smelling the campfires and the earthy scents of native flora and fauna, and even experiencing the discomforts our ancestors had to deal with gives you a perspective that you can’t get otherwise. It’s truly like stepping through a portal in time.
I guarantee that you don’t live far from fascinating historical sites and parks, many you may never have heard of, that lift history out of the dusty pages of books and bring them to vivid life. Every year all across this country there are events set during a wide range of periods, including American colonial, trappers and traders, French and Indian War, American Revolution, early 1800s, Civil War, and even Medieval and Renaissance. Finding reenactment events/historical sites in your area or around the country is as easy as doing an online search.
One of the best sites for ReWar reenactors is Americanrevolution.org, which lists numerous links to American Revolutionary War reenactor organizations that provide schedules of their events. Reenactor.net has information and links for reenactor organizations from all eras. One interesting site I found is We Make History, an organization that offers both public and private historic balls, reenactments, living history, historical education, support of historic sites and more, according to their website. You’ll find a schedule of their public events on their site. It sounds as if they’re not only educational, but also a ton of fun.
The photos in this post are pictures I took at one such site in my area, Rock Castle, Tennessee, a couple of years ago during the Daniel Smith Frontier Days. If you’ve never attended a reenactment, I hope these will tempt you to step out of modern life and into history for a few hours or days!