As a Rendezvous wrap-up, I want to share some final thoughts and observations about the experience. Although Tom and I were tired from all the work we did during the Rendezvous, we were impressed by the passion and commitment of the Grand Portage staff and the historic re-enactors who came. Everyone was doing their very best to be accurate to history and to the story of Grand Portage. Even the youngest re-enactors kept away from modern conveniences during the weekend. The one concession to modernity: the flush toilets were very popular.
The only people who paid no attention to the guidelines for historical dress were the Ojibwe who participated in the opening drum ceremony. I thought that was odd, until I realized that the rest of us were playing at history. The Ojibwe drummers had integrated their history into their current reality. Wearing t-shirts and sunglasses while playing drums was a way of living their heritage and making it part of their present.
I was impressed by the number of visitors who attended Rendezvous. We had about 8,000 people come through the park during the three days. Normally the numbers would be closer to 1,000 over a summer weekend. Most of the people who came were “locals” – people who live within an hour of the park. Obviously, the Mist of Avalon was a big draw, but many of these people come at least once a year to Grand Portage. This is their park and, when we do something special, they support it.
People were taking advantage of the opportunities presented at Rendezvous. Visitors were interested, took their time, and asked lots of questions. People signed up for the workshops and games – all of them were full. We were able to take everyone who wanted to out to see the Mist of Avalon and 1,600 people rode out to view the schooner. Visitors and re-enactors attended the concerts and watched the historic re-enactments.
After this Rendevous wrap-up, life returns to “normal.” Tom and I only have three more weeks here at Grand Portage and then we will be moving on. We are glad we got to experience Rendezvous and can see why this is one of the big draws at Grand Portage National Monument. Next year it will be the second weekend in August: August 11, 12, and 13. Maybe you should put it on your calendar now!