Muzzleloader club to hold 1840s re-enactment Sept. 22 in New Madrid

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- Fur traders and trappers, Native Americans and black-powder gun sharp shooters will return to the banks of the Mississippi River Sept. 22 and 23 for the New Madrid Bend Rendezvous.

The Crowley's Ridge Blackpowder Club will re-create the 1840s with a primitive encampment in New Madrid's newest park on the banks of the river next to the observation deck. The free event is part of the community's Fall Festival celebration, which is planned along Main Street on Sept. 22.

"We offer the public a chance to step back in time and walk through our primitive encampments and witness Native Americans and mountain men and women performing their crafts," said Dee Loflin, secretary/treasurer of the group.

She explained a rendezvous was a gathering when fur traders would sell their hides and buy food, tobacco, whiskey and other supplies before heading back to the woods for another hunting and trapping season. It also offered some much needed rest and relaxation with music and dance.

According to Loflin, the Crowley's Ridge Blackpowder Club, founded in 1978, has the longest consecutive running rendezvous in the state of Missouri.

"This is a testament to living history education," she added. "For 35 years we have been re-enacting the 1840s fur trapping era."

Alex Hanners, president of the Crowley's Ridge Blackpowder Club, said there is a lot of excitement about setting up a rendezvous at New Madrid, because the community's place in history.

"I have been told that it was the site of the first fort on this side of the Mississippi," said Hanners. "We are going in and setting up in a location that was an actual place where these things would happen - where traders would come in and trade with Indians."

The club has about 36 active members. However, Hanners said, the New Madrid event will draw individuals from other clubs and other states.

He also emphasized the New Madrid Bend Rendezvous is a family event, both for participants and those visiting.

"My daughter started going to these events when she was 4 years old. She is 11 now and competes in the bow competition and has just started in the blackpowder gun youth division," he said.

Hanners added he particularly likes how the older members enjoy sharing their skills with younger members and the public.

And they are just as quick to share the shirt of their back. He recalled at one of his first rendezvous, a re-enactor gave him a hand-made shirt to wear while competing in a blackpowder shoot.

"When he gave it to me, I told him I would pay him for it but he said, 'Just help someone else when they get started.' I'm proud to say I did," said Hanners.

A rendezvous offers a look at history and is fun, too, Hanners said.

The rendezvous will open at 10 a.m. Sept. 22.

Throughout the day, the public can stroll through the encampment. Participants will be taking part in primitive archery shoots as well as hawk and knife throws. There will be several demonstrations by club members including leather tanning, flintknapping, wood carving, rope making and black smithing.

Because of the proximity to New Madrid and the number of people expected for the festival and rendezvous, Hanners said they will not shoot their muzzle-loaded guns. However, there will be guns on display and some demonstrations.

Those who want to test their skills at the outdoor life can try starting a fire using flint and steel. Several contests are planned for children including tug-of-war, sack races, egg throwing contest and skillet throwing contest.

Visitors are invited to bring chairs or blankets to listen to a music, including bluegrass and gospel.

"You can try a variety of traditional and not-so traditional foods such as homemade candy, homemade root beer, lemonade, kettle corn, fry bread and baked goods," Loflin said. "The candy cannon is also a big hit with the young and old."

The candy cannon is a device that shoots candy into the air. As the candy falls to the ground, youngsters have the opportunity to scramble for the goodies.

Just like in the 1840s, the merchants will hawk their wares. Among vendors expected for the event are those selling jewelry, knives, hand-forged iron items, wood furniture, leather bags, beaded purses and period clothing.

At the registration tent, visitors can buy primitive cookbooks, T-shirts and postcards. Also tickets will be available for a 50/50 raffle and the chance to win a 45 caliber CVA blackpowder rifle.

The camp remains open to the public until dusk on Saturday.

On Sunday, activities gear back up at 8 a.m. with an old-fashion church service set for 9 a.m. Participants described the second day as more relaxed but it will include more competitions and demonstrations for visitors.

The rendezvous ends at 2 p.m.

Hanners said he plans on testing his skills during the New Madrid Bend Rendezvous, but that isn't what draws him back year after year.

"I love to camp and sit around the campfire with my friends," he said. "But the camaraderie and fellowship is why I stay in it."

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