Tag Archives: re-enactors

Historical Women in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Park, Nebraska

25 Nov

Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near  Ft. Calhoun, NE is a look at western frontier fort life as settlers and others were moving westward looking for a new or better life and the men who worked to safeguard that passage west. The fort, while not home to women in particular, was supported by women married to some of the soldiers or nearby settlers that acquired land to work and helped build communities. The park’s welcome center contains information that helps explain the times and the fort’s purpose.

The Welcome Center seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

“Conquering” the western frontier wasn’t only a job done by men, even though most of history would have people believe that. Men could not have accomplished as much as they claim had in fact that women were not involved. The simple fact, without women, there would be no men.

So it was fascinating and interesting to talk with women re-enactors at the Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near Ft. Calhoun, Ne. Women in those days played the supporting role for men going West. They maintained the families and home fronts and saw to it that many basic needs were met. And in doing that also found ways that enriched their lives in small ways as well.

Marilyn Jones, center right, gives step by step instructions to a park visitor curious about the lace weaving technique she is demonstrating during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Women also provided a different skill set for practical means such as quilting, mending, weaving that applied to day to day life. They helped the new frontier much like the old frontier thrive. And made a rough existence a bit more palatable to men living there and raising their families. While women were not permitted on the fort grounds, they helped out in many ways that sustained fort life.

A view of the parade and mustering grounds during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life must have been difficult for both sexes during those frontier days, much like it is today, although for different reasons reflecting the time period. Yet one makes do and tries to find some joy in life even in the little things. Making the best of what must have been impossible situations now and again, but still finding some joy in it all.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Weaver Donna Jones, right, talks with visitors about the 100 plus years old looms she is using for her weaving projects such as the rugs seen next to the young boys and what life was like in early frontiers day during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Park visitors take a break on benches outside of soldier quarters during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors talk with a re-enactor at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park during July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Families and visitors explore the grounds and an “early frontier” garden plot during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the grounds area and a tribute seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History Comes Alive in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

19 Nov

Visitors head into Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park for July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This summer I spent part of a day reliving history at a Nebraska Historical Park in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson, which according to one living history participant and re-enactor, was the largest fort in the U.S. during its days of use on what was then the frontier.

I find attending such places and events informative and fun. As well as fascinating because of the people who help make history come alive for us regular folk who get the chance to understand a bit more about those folk who came before us. While those volunteering their time to portray actors can’t provide all the answers, they can help people appreciate what history says about a place and possibly give us direction where to find more information about a place’s history.

Visitors assemble for a program about the creation of the United States and a firing demonstration of muskets and canon as each state’s name is read and when it entered the Union during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes the people who portray historical characters are themselves rascals who give a nice dimensional look to an era we can only read about now.

 

Blacksmith Tom speaks with visitors during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Two “regimental officers” talk about life at the fort in early frontier days during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors check out the Trading Post cabin outside of the Fort during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Exploring History in Siouxland, Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa

26 Jul

A commemoration of the expedition that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark undertook after the Louisiana Purchase, and where current day re-enactors gather for the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Lewis and Clark Expedition history display can be found at the Lewis and Clark State Park in Siouxland. With displays that recount the historical journal by the expedition mapping out a way to and back from the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase Territory. The displays give information about the journey itself as well as those who inhabited the local area here in Iowa.

Visitors look over a replica of the keel boat used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the Lewis and Clark State Park visitors center near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A wealth of information can be found in the visitors center about the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase Expedition at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But for those visiting the park a popular attraction is riding in a replica keel boat, from which visitors are spared from rowing and oaring it out on the lake. For some a hour’s excursion might turn into a few days worth trying to navigate away from shore and back again. The replica keep boat has a small motor that propels it through the water. I find it interesting in context to see more modern day water craft zipping in and around the keel boat as people learn a little what life was like for Meriweather Lewis’ and William Clark’s men who made the 8,000 mile journey.

Visitors prepare to take off on a motor outfitted keel boat on Blue Lake as re-enactors paddle nearby during the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors ride a motor-enabled keel boat as re-enactors portray period people during Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But it’s time well spend to understand a little more about how this country had taken shape and what was involved creating a place that many now call home, with many more seeking admittance. In some respects life seems as arduous now as it was then, depending on what advantages an individual has and the opportunity that awaits each person. But I believe they is a saying, ” In order to know where one is going it’s good to know where you’ve been”. Otherwise history could get caught in a loop with repeats a sure thing down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A wealth of information can be found in the visitors center about the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase Expedition at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A wealth of information can be found in the visitors center about the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase Expedition at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A wealth of information can be found in the visitors center about the Lewis and Clark Louisiana Purchase Expedition at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Reliving History in Siouxland, Lewis and Clark Rendevous, Lewis and Clark State Park

6 Jul

This couple has been participating for 30 years as re-enactors of Lewis and Clark Rendevous festivals, this one taking place at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A re-enactors at the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival waits his turn to throw an axe at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Lewis and Clark State Park near Oanawa has a yearly Lewis and Clark Rendevous where like-minded individuals dress up for the part and re-enact what some might consider a fur traders exposition where they get together as happened in the early days of west exploration. The traders would show off fur trappings they collected and resupply themselves for another year with essentials to once again go exploring. People go all out and try to maintain the the experience by camping in tents and cooking food by camp fire. I attended the rendevous a few years ago, and this time saw there were fewer participants as well as visitors taking in the experience.

In talking with some participants it was sad to hear that attendance for both re-enactors and interested citizens was declining. The surrounding campground area held far few tents than I previously remembered.

Re-enactors of the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival are camped out at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A commemoration of the expedition that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark undertook after the Louisiana Purchase, and where current day re-enactors gather for the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And even though during summer there are so many activities going on it seems even local history (Lewis and Clark Slept Here) falls by the wayside for ball games, lake boating and other family activities.

A hide skinning display is set up as re-enactors perform various tasks during the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Musicians play era-specific songs during the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But those who attended made the most of it. A group of outliers played traditional songs even though they didn’t dress the part. Well not all of them.

A musician plays banjo along with some others on fiddle, harp, and guitar during the re-enactors festival at the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A couple join in with other musicians as they play era specific tunes while re-enactors portray period people during the Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And those attending got the chance to ride in a keel boat (motor powered) on the lake at the Lewis and Clark State Park which was probably alright with them as it saved them from oar duty. It was a nice day to be outside, campfire smells and cooking wafting through the air and thankfully, not many bugs, yet. I just hope the history and the sacrifice that these “mountain men” and early explorers doesn’t fall by the wayside, the name of the park referencing some guys long ago that took a long hike, made a few discoveries and then returned home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visitors ride a motor-enabled keel boat as re-enactors portray period people during Lewis and Clark Rendevous festival at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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