Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The 2015 Season Begins: Grand Ledge Victorian Festival

Through all the complaints of winter's bitter cold and snow, I have one question: where did the time go? It was just Christmas and now it's already May!
And you know what that means...yup! the beginning of the reenacting season is here!
Although a few of us have dressed up in our period clothing numerous times over the winter months, it's this springtime of the year that, at least for us here in Michigan, the time machine is oiled up, gassed up, and waxed up, ready to take us into the past so we can, as I said in last week's post, become a part of history.
This is why it's so important for us as living historians/reenactors to research and learn all we can about the time-period we are representing, for if you have fine clothing but little-to-no knowledge of the era you not only make yourself look foolish, but you make everyone in the hobby look foolish. To be taken seriously, and not just "frou frou people in costume," takes a bit of work.
As the season begins, please keep this in mind.
And for you newbies, please heed the following advice: research, research, research.
No one will expect you to be a top-notch history major initially, but with each passing event, try to gain a bit more knowledge about the past - some wonderful historical information you can share with the public. You'll be amazed at how quickly your familiarity with times gone by will grow.
Well, with that being said, let's take a peak into the highlight my first reenactment of 2015, which occurred the first weekend in May
Welcome to
Grand Ledge, Michigan
The ledges of
Grand Ledge
While many of our friends journeyed to Springfield, Illinois to the Lincoln Mourning Remembrance event, a few of us who remained in Michigan attended a fairly new reenactment in a quaint Village located nearly two hours west of Detroit known as Grand Ledge. I've never been to Grand Ledge before this so I really didn't know what to expect, but it seems to have the typical small-town atmosphere that I love and enjoy so much, with stately Victorian buildings, well-kept parks, beautiful 19th and early 20th century homes, along with a friendliness that is difficult to find around big cities. 
Americana. I love it!!
The futuristic Sylvania Dye
in her 1880s finest.
She’ll be in 1860s
clothing this summer.
All about the bass…
One of the 21st Michigan's newest members, Sylvania, has been heading up a Victorian festival here for, I believe, five years, and has been trying to get our other members to attend every year since it began. Previously, our unit had been committed to the now defunct Walker Tavern event, which prevented us from Grand Ledge.
In 2014, with Walker Tavern gone, I planned to finally go to Sylvania's event. But, that April, my brother passed away suddenly, leaving my family in shock. Naturally, any thoughts of going was out.
This year, however, the date was left open.
And we went.
And we had a great time!
Although there are some festivities taking place in the village of Grand Ledge itself, the majority of the excitement occurs on an island located in the middle of a river (Grand River) that runs through town, accessible by a walking bridge. This island is a perfect spot for visitors to stroll along a walkway and speak to the reenactors in camps. Since the island is not very large or wide at all, the Grand River is easily seen on both sides, becoming a perfect backdrop no matter where you stand.
Three of us from the 21st Michigan joined other reenactors on this perfect spring day, and I, with camera in hand, was able to snap a few photographs that will hopefully give you a "grand" idea of just how nice this reenactment was:
What the heck is this horseless carriage doing in 1865? Does it run on steam? Ha!
Actually, before we ventured to the island, Mrs. Schubert, Mr. Tennies, and I ran into one of our friends from the 7th Michigan, Mrs. Carlson.

From up the Grand River, a steamboat moves along the budding trees while Michigan Senator, Jacob Howard, enjoys the sounds of spring now that the river has thawed.

"Oh my! There's the steamer going by! That's a sure sign of spring!"

It's like seeing an old friend!

The boat they have here is, unfortunately, not a paddlewheel boat, but, instead, a modern version of a steamboat giving patrons rides up and down the Grand River. Even though it wasn’t period, it still gave off the impression that it was, so we took advantage of the photo opportunities. Out of the half dozen or so images taken, this one happens to be my favorite.

Ahhh...here we are, enjoying a beautiful spring day in the merry month of May. Even though steamboats were plentiful in my home state of Michigan in the 19th century (with all the lakes and rivers we have here, how could they not be?), they still bring "the old south" to my mind. That's one of the nice things about being a civilian: we can be North or South, depending on the scenario. Maybe the three of us are preparing to go down the Mississippi River...

Civilian members of the 102nd Regiment United States Colored Troops. Based out of Detroit, they do a fine job representing people of color during the time of the Civil War, which, if you ask me, are under-represented.

The 102nd Regiment United States Colored Troops was organized at Camp Ward, located on a farm in Detroit. Eight-hundred-forty-five men from Detroit, southern Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, volunteered for the regiment. Some of these early volunteers were escaped slaves from the Underground Railroad: 72 had been living in Canada where their status as free men was assured.

While all were fighting against slavery, some were fighting to free actual family members who may have still been enslaved. For these early black volunteers particularly, to step into the spotlight by volunteering took enormous courage, not to mention the bravery of those who crossed back from Canada into the US to fight.

My sometimes niece (Christmas at the Fort 2014), sometimes male soldier (with the 4th Michigan), and sometimes just a plain old girl reenactor (21st Michigan), Mrs. Frey is top notch at nearly anything she does in the world of living history...

...just don't throw the baby out with the bath water! Ha! Yes...that's just a myth but it seemed to fit the picture.

Mr. Tennies (aka Senator Howard) is not bribing one of the judges of the facial hair/moustache contest. Naw...not at all...!

Yes, this is the same lovely woman in photo above this one. It's Mrs. Dye, and she is the person who heads up Victorian Days. She joined our group this year and plans to have her 1860s dress ready for summer. That's a good thing because the futuristic fashion she has on here is very different from what I'm used to seeing young ladies wear!

This reenactment in Grand Ledge was a fine beginning to the reenacting season for us and has me itching for more. I will be bouncing back and fourth between the 1860s and the 1770s and hope to continue to raise the bar for myself and for any others who would like to join me in these travels.
You know, of course, I will be posting photos and text of my adventures through time here on Passion for the Past.
Stay tuned...


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