Historical encampment brings flesh and blood to the history books

by MATT MARN

Reenactors often have actual equipment from the era they represent.

From German WWII trucks to working British Revolutionary War cannons, the Grand Rogue Living History Encampment helped history come alive. From excited young children to individuals who lived through some of these time periods, everyone who walked through the encampment stepped through to another time. What’s more, they all learned something about what shaped our country and the people in it into what they are today.

The encampment was held Saturday and Sunday, September 17-18, at the Grand Rogue Campground and Paddle Sports, 6400 West River Dr., Comstock Park.

“The encampment was an example of many held around the country,” said Dave Schmid, a 34-year reenactment veteran at the professional level, working before classes and crowds on a regular basis.

Reenactors at the annual Grand Rogue Encampment love to answer questions about their chosen time in history. There are many hands-on activities to teach the public—young and old—about America’s past.

“Most have a hard time understanding how life was like back then,” Schmid said, who joined the ranks of reenactment participants right out of high school. “As you watch their faces… then they get it, like a light was switched on. They start to ask questions, and they go home and learn about their own past, and they learn from that. There’s the reward.”

The encampment portrayed a wide array of time periods, from a World War II German camp to colonial times and Revolutionary War soldiers from both sides of the field to French and Indian War time period with authentic Native American camps and tents.

Schmid, dressed completely in traditional frontier explorer attire in the Native American camp area, said he was portraying and studying Champlain, the founder of Quebec.

“In dealing with both royalty and the colonials, and keeping everyone happy… His story was amazing,” Schmid said of Champlain. “So many heroes of the past, they turned out to be ordinary, nondescript people who just stepped up.”

Encampment visitors Robert and Cammi Adams and their children know this better than most. Their family travels to all kinds of reenactments, and appreciate this one is locally based, and covers more than one time period. One of the kids went to the encampment as a class trip Friday, so the family decided to make the trip out the following day.

Exploring the German World War II campsite in the encampment, Cammi said she has been all over the world, including a trip to Europe as a teenager. She said in Germany, she and her family visited a large graveyard with American soldiers who were killed during World War II. She said her family decided to also travel to the smaller graveyard of German soldiers, out of respect for all who lost their lives.

“With four children, it’s harder to travel abroad,” said Cammi. “It’s nice to learn these lessons of history locally, especially with the time span they cover here. The kids love it too; it was their idea to come here. We went to Fort Michilimackinac earlier this summer, and we had to pull them out by their toenails.”

Mark Biolchino is a former teacher from the Detroit area who has been participating in reenactments with the 2nd SS Division Panzer Grenadiers reenactment unit for over two years. Dressed as a German medical officer, and a medic himself for the U.S. military in Vietnam, he wants to pay respect to the past and all those who fought in World War II. And as many of them pass away, Biolchino said he and his colleagues in the reenactment unit help bring that time period alive again.

“There’s so much to absorb here, “ Biolchino said. “It gives flesh and blood to the history book. It brings to life the conflict.”

Back in the Native American camp, Schmid extended an invitation to anyone with an passion for history and an openness for trying new things to come to a reenactment and learn more.

“What I like about living history is that people find a time period and a niche that they love, it becomes their passion,” Schmid said. “They study it so intensely; it’s amazing what they come up with. If you have a passion for learning about history, come out to a reenactment. If you see someone wearing what you like, talk to them. We’ve done research, we can give guidance… Do honor to those of the past.”

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