A living history two-fer (May 10-11 and every May-June weekend)

May 7, 2008

Where I’m from, there’s no such thing as Civil War re-enactments. North Dakota wasn’t a state during the Civil War, and nobody seemed to particularly care much about Dakota Territory until later, when the war was over and the military men turned their attention to Native Americans. So there are some forts up there with living history events, but they’re not on the same scale as those further east. I was unabashedly excited about my first Civil War event, which I dragged my husband to when we were living in Ohio. Thanks to my training as a journalist, I knew there was no question too dumb — but I’m sure some of mine came close! I learned a lot at that first event, even though I realize in hindsight that it was perhaps not the most historically accurate … for example, the ice chests were disguised in wooden boxes, but it was hard to explain away the Dr. Pepper the soldiers were swigging!

Perhaps St. Louis, being the gateway to the west an all, has a more solid sense of the importance of history, and that’s why the historic re-enactments around here tend to be first-rate. When a group like the 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry sets up camp near a fabled institution like Grant’s Farm, you know you’ll get a quality history lesson and a well-organized event. The biannual Civil War re-enactment happens in October and this weekend (May 10 and 11), with demonstrations of military drills, cooking, games, dances, cannon firing (very cool, if you’ve not yet experienced it!) and skits to entertain and explain the way of life on campaign 140-odd years ago. Visit this link or call 314. 843.1700 for more information on the event’s location, and remember that although admission to Grant’s Farm is free, parking fees ($10 per car) do apply. Note also that Grant’s Farm just switched to summer hours; Saturdays it’s open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays it’s open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A different era unfolds in St. Charles every weekend in May and June: the colonial era from 1790 to 1860 (for those of you who’re as bad at dates as I am, that’s around the time the Civil War started). The Historic Time Travelers represent French and American townsfolk and businesspeople (rope-maker, laundress, merchant, trapper) who’ll go about their tasks from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The volunteers will be wearing hand-made costumes and will be fully prepared to talk at length about their characters. For details, visit this link or call 636.946.7776.

I’ve noted before how much I respect the historic events St. Charles puts on, even when the “historic figure” in question is Santa Claus! I also really enjoy strolling and browsing the St. Charles Main Street area. My kids put up with the shopping because they know shops like J. Noto Fine Italian Confections are close at hand!

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