Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reenacting in Port Sanilac

A few months ago I wrote a posting about how important the smaller events are. Well, this week's blog is sorta a continuation of that post as well as an 'after action report' of a reenactment that I recently participated in.
I hear, quite often actually, reenactors state, "I'm tired of doing the same old events. I need to do something to bring back the excitement. I wish there were new events that have something different to offer."
I bet you've heard it, too.
For the last three years I've responded with, "I understand. Why don't you join us at a new event up in Port Sanilac?"

President Lincoln and Michigan Governor Blair inspect the troops

Port Sanilac is in the 'thumb' of Michigan's mitt - right on the banks of Lake Huron, and is only about an hour and a half drive from Detroit.
"Well," comes the invariable reply, "That's too far to drive. Plus, I need to cut my lawn. And we have to get shopping done. And..."
You get the picture.
This year has been particularly tough on the reenacting season for us here in Michigan. Due to severe weather in July, one of our major events at Historic Fort Wayne was canceled from storm damage. And due to reasons I'd rather not go into at this time, the Crossroads Village event was canceled as well.
Because of two wonderful events out of the loop for the 150th year of the Civil War, one would think that a reenactor would jump on an opportunity to time travel!
Ha! Getting folks, especially military, to come to a new event is worse than pulling teeth!
Well, too bad for them. The Port Sanilac "Civil War Days" is better than most of the other events out there. In fact, this year I heard more than one participant state that it was their very favorite! Last year, which was the 2nd year for this event, was a sort of catalyst to really get the ball rolling to bring the past to life here.
This year was even better!

A Quaker abolitionist discusses her plain dress in the period fashion show

You see, we pretty much have the run of this Port Sanilac event; we can come up with any scenario we want without some committee dictating to us what we're doing. A good example of this were the battles that were chosen; not only were the military leaders of the Federals and Confederates discussing the battle scenario the morning of the first day, but the civilian lead (me!) was included as well. Since the land we were on is a mini-open air museum and has twelve historic 19th century buildings upon it, the opportunities for scenarios were limitless. And we certainly took advantage of the surroundings: it was decided that we would incorporate a sort of 1st Manassas/1st Bull Run type of a scenario, where the citizens of the town were going to enjoy watching the battle by having a picnic where the fighting would take place - much like attending a hanging.

A lovely day for a battle - could be better than a hangin'!

Then, once the firing of musketry and cannons got too close we would skeedaddle out of there (I had heard that the 150th Manassas this past July had no use for civilians for their reenactment. We thought we'd, in a small way, right their wrong).

Some of the young ladies become frightened at the harshness of battle

Also, just like at the Charlton Park event a few weeks ago, we incorporated the schoolhouse and children into the scenario as well.

The visitors loved it!
Being that this was "our" event and we could plan almost anything we wanted, we also put together a 'shotgun wedding.' ~ (Read about it HERE) ~
Okay, I'll be honest, although I know that shotgun weddings did actually take place, I'm not quite sure how frequently this sort of thing happened. So we did it off the cuff, just threw it together and hoped for the best.

~ Not the happiest of couples ~

Well, since this was totally unscripted, it came off as authentic and as natural as, I suppose, an actual one would have. The bride truly looked forlorn, and the groom was in disbelief that this was actually happening.
As for the father of the soiled young lady, well, he played the role perfectly!

Southeastern lower Michigan, by the way, has the very best of the President Lincoln impersonators, Mr. Fred Priebe, and he was on hand for a Lincoln-Douglas debate as well as a recitation of the Gettysburg Address (it's okay that this was supposed to be 1861 - the crowd loved his speech anyhow!).

To top it all off, the tall ships - replicas of the Nina and the Pinta (Columbus' ships, for the very few who may be ignorant of early American history) - were in Port Sanilac's harbor awaiting the public to come aboard and tour them, which a number of us did.This was not a planned extra, by the way. So it was pretty exciting to have the opportunity to see these replicas after our event had ended.

So, as you can see, we had the world of the past wide open to bring it back to life in such a way that most of the larger events - local or national - cannot (or will not) do.

A great opportunity for living history, such as showing a teenage cabin girl doing her chores

It's the newer events such as Port Sanilac, with its fresh ideas and different settings, that will keep living history and reenacting alive.
Won't you join us next time?


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