Two hundred years of living history free to see this week

History all the way back to the French and Indian War in the 1750s will come alive this Saturday and Sunday with the 24th year of the Grand Rogue Military Encampment at the Grand Rogue Campgrounds, 6400 West River Drive.

The event is free to the public and hopefully raises as much curiosity as it answers questions. Reenactor Mike DeJonge said participants take pride in being as authentic as possible and many artifacts are the real thing. They look forward to sharing their passion about our past.

“A lot of people are fascinated with Civil War reenacting because it was a war between ourselves,” DeJonge stated. “It was the first modern war, the first war with photographs.” He said many people have family members in the Civil War.

Young and old will be invited to participate in several demonstrations, including the proper use of a bayonet. Some traders bring items to sell, hard candy, utensils, spoons and pots. Items for sale vary as participants don’t like to offer the same things year after year.

Girls learn the proper handling of a bayonet in hand-to-hand combat.

DeJonge said he has been a participant for just under two decades and has always been a fan of American history.

“History drew me in. What clothes did they wear, what gear, how to start a fire without a match,” he said. “We are so used to electricity. Try using flint and steel to make a shower of sparks to start a fire. How do you bake a pie over a fire without an oven. It’s not just about military, it’s about life.”

He said demonstrations may include blacksmiths who show how iron was worked, woodworkers who demonstrate how they made wood into furniture without power tools.

Surveyors, an historically important profession, also have a story to tell and are happy to at the encampment. They can explain how Michigan’s townships were measured out with lengths of chain carried on foot across the entire face of the state. Many important men in history were surveyors, including George Washington, Abe Lincoln and many others.

Girls who took part in last year’s camp gather shells from the banks of the Grand River. The yearly event is more about life than just military, said organizer Mike DeJonge.

Children, and adults, can “play at soldier” by taking part in musket demonstrations. Throughout the day there are demonstrations of fights on horseback and on foot between settlers and native Americans. The guns aren’t loaded with bullets but use real gunpowder with an amazing realistic exchange. Other favorites include firing off of a large cannon and a marching demonstration on foot and horseback with flags. The even is Saturday and Sunday September 18 and 19 and is open to the public from 9 a.m. until dark on Saturday and until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Bring cameras and questions.

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