During Rendezvous, the 300+ historic re-enactors who came set up and lived at the Voyageur Camp. I had the chance to walk through the camp a few times and it was a surreal experience. I felt like I had transported back in time about 200 years. Everyone – even the children – was dressed in era appropriate clothing and doing era appropriate things. The white canvas tents packed the area around the historic stockade.
One of the really fun things about the Voyageur Camp was the number of children and young adults present. At other encampments, it seems like most of the people there are retired men. This encampment seemed to have as many children as men. Of course, the Voyageurs wouldn’t have traveled with their families. When they were at Grand Portage they were there for work. But it was still fun to see a new generation of historic re-enactors being raised.
As I walked through the Voyageur Camp I saw young girls sewing and moms knitting. I saw a mom teaching her daughter to chop wood (the women were in charge of fires and chopping up the wood back in the day). I saw children having more fun on a rocking horse and rope swing than I ever see them have with a video game. I saw goods for sale: pots and pans, beads, wild rice, blankets, tools, and clothing.
I took time to talk to some of the Voyageurs. One family was there with their five children (and another one due any day). Each of the kids took time to show me what was in their knapsack: furs, a sewing kit, a pirate’s sword. I asked the parents which one had grown up re-enacting, and they laughed and said the husband had and the wife had married into it. But they came every summer and it was like a family reunion. Every year they saw people who have been coming for the re-enactments here for 30 years or more.
There were Voyageurs lined up at the “spring” (water faucet and hose) to fill buckets with water. There were different groups putting their birchbark canoes into the water for a paddle on the lake. Women and men were cooking gourmet meals over the fire and inviting the people around them to taste it. It all felt like an old-fashioned county fair where people would come from far and near and stay for the week because they were having such a good time visiting with “neighbors.”
On Saturday night, re-enactors young and old joined together on the lawn of the Great Hall for dancing by candlelight. They cheered and jostled and danced and laughed and talked and I could almost see the ghosts of the Voyageurs standing around them in approval.