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Last updated: Sat. Feb. 15, 2014 - 06:43 am EDT

Old Fort will come alive this weekend with Winter Garrison event

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Winter at Old Fort

What: About 25-30 military re-enactors will present “Living History: A Winter Garrison, 1775-1781,” portraying what life was like in winter at a frontier fort in the late 1700s.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Old Fort, 1201 Spy Run Ave. Parking is available at Headwaters and Lawton Parks.

Cost: Freewill donation

Information: For www.oldfortwayne.org or 437-2836

Note: Military drills are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

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A warm fire. Good food. Surrounded by the things you love — heavy wool uniforms, muskets and 25-30 of your fellow Revolutionary War-era military re-enactors.

Sort of a different take on how to celebrate Valentine's Day.

But re-enactors were marching — OK, actually driving and walking — Friday evening into the Old Fort on Spy Run Avenue for this weekend's “Living History: A Winter Garrison, 1775-1781” event. The public is welcome 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is a freewill donation.

“The idea is to show the public what troops may have been doing in a fort during the winter,” said Dean Rapp of Fort Wayne, the event organizer and a soldier with re-enactment unit Keller's Company of the Illinois Regiment of Virginia.

In the late 1700s, Rapp said, both the American colonial troops and British troops went into “winter quarters” each winter and did no combat fighting. Instead, they mended clothing, prepared gun cartridges for using during battles in the spring and summer, and did a lot of military drills.

“That was a good time to train your men,” he said.

Members of his unit, which in the mid-1770s consisted of Virginia troops based in the Midwest and commanded by George Rogers Clark, also will be doing a lot of drilling this weekend. They are preparing for participation in a re-enactment event in late March at Valley Forge, Pa.

In addition, Old Fort visitors can see sewing, cooking and other chores, as well visit a trading post.

The event will draw re-enactors from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Several men taking part are what Rapp described as “hard core” re-enactors who enjoy the challenge of winter weather.

They all will sleep and cook in the Old Fort's buildings, with the only heat coming from wood fireplaces, just as in the late 1700s, he said.

“I've always said, 'If they could do it then, we can do it now,'” said Rapp, 50, who grew up taking part in military re-enactments and whose family has volunteered at the Old Fort since moving here in 1976 from Tennessee.

Visitors this weekend also will get a preview of what Rapp hopes this event will be like next year: This weekend, some events, including a tavern, will be presented as first-person interpretation, with re-enactors acting as if they are real people in the 1700s.

Next year, he hopes all re-enactors will be providing first-person interpretation, except for the guards at the fort gates.

And about Valentine's Day: There are a lot of trade shows during the winter with vendors selling items for use by re-enactors, Rapp said. He tries to schedule the Winter Garrison event on a weekend with few trade shows, and this was it.

He didn't miss Valentine's Day with his wife, though.

“We did Valentine's Day yesterday — Thursday night,” he said.

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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