Bringing New Energy To Reenactments

Giving Forest Glen a boost seemed to work. Now, onto Dollinger Farm!

Ginny trying to tickle me through my stays, which Jack found entertaining. Photo is courtesy of Ananda Asha Photography.
Ginny trying to tickle me through my stays, which Jack found entertaining. Photo is courtesy of Ananda Asha Photography.

To be honest with you, dear readers, I don’t think Forest Glen could have gone better. We had more public show up than I’ve ever seen out there in the past. We fully funded the event with generous donations from Kohls, the DAR, the SAR, plus some private entities. And just as many reenactors arrived and participated as usual, which is saying something, since our numbers have really been down this year at other events.

The tacticals…I’ve never seen anything like them. The soldiers on the field were having so much fun! Sure, there was some confusion, since none of them have ever done anything like this before, and sometimes the winning side was unclear. But seriously, the tacticals were so much fun to watch! Thomas ran all over that field, barking out orders along with some of the big wigs (I’ll call them that, because really, they’re my friends, so I like to tease). The tactical was more like a big game of chess, with people instead of pieces. So exciting!

As far as making Forest Glen an annual event, everything looks promising. I really think this event will be on the schedule next year. And if that works out, we did exactly what we set out to do. Did I mention this is exciting?!!

The little extras we planned throughout the day went off without a hitch…well, that’s not entirely true. When the Declaration of Independence was read to the public, some of us went to be “rabble-rousers.” We started getting rowdy, some of us shouting in support of the Declaration, others protesting boisterously. And then we heard the bagpipes! The 42nd Highlanders (a Scottish unit that wears red coats and kilts) marched on us. I had, of course, arranged this, but still, my heart was thumping as I ran around the public, clinging to my baby, shouting, “Don’t you hear them coming? They’re coming to stop this. They’ll arrest us all!”

What I didn’t plan for was the group of reenactors who lined up in front of the 42nd when they arrived and linked arms in protest. The 42nd affixed bayonets (that means they put blades on the ends of their muskets), and marched ever closer. I was actually a little worried. I had assured the 42nd that all the protestors would run off into the trees, but they weren’t running. They were standing their ground. Finally, a couple people in the line broke and ran off screaming. One of our new recruits kept in character so well, a couple guys had to drag him away as he kept shouting at the soldiers. The guys kept trying to reassure him, “We have to do this smart! Let’s enlist! Come on, we’ll do this the right way!”

So cool.

The 42nd on their way to break up the rowdy villagers! Photo is courtesy of Anada Asha Photography.
The 42nd Highlanders on their way to break up the rowdy villagers. Photo is courtesy of Ananda Asha Photography.

I was a little nervous about the 42nd however. The whole thing looked awesome, but was a bit unexpected. I went over to their camp later, and they seemed perfectly fine. Sounds like they were happy to play along, and glad to hear our new recruit wasn’t actually mad. They invited him over for a drink, so I made sure they did get a chance to meet a little later on. Always a good thing when we’re shouting and screaming angrily at each other out there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s acting and what’s real…especially when someone’s good at it.

Next up: the Dollinger Farm event next weekend! From what I can tell, the 1st Dragoons are trying to infuse the event with the same new energy that we aimed for at Forest Glen. They’re trying new things, and whether they work or not…well, to me, that doesn’t really matter. They’re trying new things!

And I hope other reenactors feel the same way. People are getting tired of the same old same old, but over the last 10 years, when someone tried to veer away from the mold, they didn’t get a lot of support. That seems to be changing now, and maybe that’s because a certain generation (ie mine) is trying to make sure this organization is still around for our kids to grow up in.

So what are the 1st Dragoons doing at Dollinger Farm? That’s a good question. From what I can tell, they’ve got exciting ideas for the battles that may take on a bit more of a tactical feel. They’re planning a new narration style, and I know they’ve got a few scenarios in mind. They’re trying to be realistic about the amount of soldiers who show up, and play with what they’ve got. So they’re hoping to recreate situations where two light groups come into contact with one another and have a reason to stay and fight, rather than running away from each other as fast as they can.

Like Forest Glen, adding a new spin to battles is only half their plan. The event is taking place at a family farm, and the Dollinger family is very open to ideas. The reenactment takes place at the same time as the site’s annual pumpkin farm (which is awesome for us parents), and apparently, that always brings in big audiences. We’re allowed to interact with these people, including stopping the hay rides (both tractor and horse-drawn) to search them for contraband, or search for a spy, etc. How fun is that?!

The 1st Dragoons are also having a “Load and Fire” competition for the reenactors to participate in, with pretty awesome prizes for the top two winners. They’ve got a $30 gift certificate and 1 pound of powder for 1st place, and a $20 gift certificate for second. The gift certificates are for the pumpkin farm’s gift shop, store, and food vendor.

This is a brand new event, and I’m so excited that the 1st Dragoons are making this happen. Honestly, between Forest Glen and Dollinger, I have so much hope for the organization that I didn’t have just a couple months ago as the Highland event died around us. Let’s keep the momentum going!

1st Dragoons in action. Photo Courtesy of TG Davison Photography
1st Dragoons in action. Photo Courtesy of TG Davison Photography

Battle of Dollinger Farm 1776,” October 10th and 11th, 2015, is about 1 hour south of Chicago. This Revolutionary War Reenactment is located in Channahon, IL along the Illinois River. It is near Minooka, southwest of Joliet, and very close to the I-80 and I-55 Interchange.

For more information, visit Dollinger Family Farms. Click here for the reenactment schedule, here for ticket information and pricing ($6 for adults, $4 for children), and here for the Pumpkin Farm.

Reenactors, click here for the registration form, and here to register online. I hope to see many of you out there!

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