Are you ready for THUNDER? 18th century Thunder, that is! Our Spring Encampment is this weekend, April 22-23, and this year, we’re celebrating the event’s 25th anniversary! Join in the fun by visiting with the troops, practicing your drill skills, learning new recipes from the women in the hearth kitchen, and more!
Because it’s such a special celebration, I got in touch with Samantha H., a 24-year veteran of Encampment. Samantha has been a member of the Illinois Regiment of Virginia since 1990 and has only missed one year of Encampment–the very first. After participating in Encampment for the first time, Samantha was so excited about her experience that she journaled about it! She is a member of Kellar’s Company, along with her husband Kevin. Samantha first became interested in reenacting around 1990, when she went to an event at Governor Bebb Park in Ohio. There, she met a woman named Jane in red stays and striped stockings. Samantha remembers, “I talked to her for a couple hours about her clothing. Now she’s one of my closest friends.” Samantha is especially interested in historic clothing and her conversation with Jane is one of the things that drew her into reenacting.
Jane is also a participant in Encampment and is looking forward to returning this year. She has been a reenactor since she was seven years old and joined Kellar’s while she was in college. Every year, she most looks forward to seeing old friends and talking to the public. Jane remarks, “My favorite part is just being at LG. The site is so lovely in the spring and in the fall. ” Just as Jane grew up with reenacting, she has also passed it on to her children. When asked about a favorite memory, Jane exclaims, “There are too many to share! I feel like my daughter grew up at LG. The number of times I’ve laughed and cried with old friends and just met friends is so precious to me. It’s like home.”
Samantha is also looking forward to seeing familiar faces. “You go out to events because you want to see your friends–it’s like going to a pool party.” History is also of the utmost importance to her. She states firmly, “We need to do things to keep the history alive for ourselves and entice new people.” Samantha recalls one of her earliest Encampment memories to illustrate the importance of bringing history to life. “There was a group of us sitting by an outdoor fire. Tourists would walk up and then walk away. So I said ‘We’re not doing anything. We should do a first person scenario.’ My friend Sharon and I had done research on camp followers and we knew that material things were precious. So we worked out a scenario. I stole her apron and we got into a huge fight. Our husbands didn’t know anything about it, they thought we were really mad at each other. My husband even said to me, ‘I thought you two liked each other!’ I still remember they separated us but they didn’t know what to say to us because they were out of their depth. If it had been the soldiers, they would have been read the riot act. We were disciplined by the commanding officer because as camp followers, we were part of the army. [Sharon and I] were showing the culture of camp.”
According to Samantha, camp life was pretty boring. “It’s the hard work of cooking or mending or sitting around waiting. We want to engage the audience. Having scenes and activities engages the crowd and makes history come alive and makes history memorable and meaningful.” Samantha always wants people to feel welcome to join in the story: “Anyone can do this! Ask us!” Folks interested in trying reenacting on for size can try it out for one weekend for free, using tents, clothing, and other supplies borrowed from seasoned participants. Samantha also notes that there are lots of different reenacting groups so everyone can find one that fits their interests. If you’re just stopping by Encampment to spend a day in the 18th century, there’s something for you too. Samantha loves engaging visitors in activities and conversation–look out for the opportunity for children to become new recruits! And on one point, Samantha is emphatic–there’s no such thing as too much excitement for history. She remarks,”We are genuinely excited when someone is excited!” Encampment is absolutely the place to be part of the story of the American Revolution–just maybe don’t steal anyone’s apron.
Encampment–18th Century Thunder will be held on April 22 and April 23, from 10am to 4:30pm daily. Admission is $6 for adults and free for children twelves and under. We can’t wait to see you!
With gratitude for friendship,
Images provided by Hannah Zimmerman, Lance G., and Samantha H.