Rendezvous education days attract thousands

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2002

When movies about the Civil War open up scenes in the army camps, they usually do so in drizzly, gray, mucky weather. Somehow that adds to the effect and the feel of that time.

Students visiting the Big Island Rendezvous and Festival at Bancroft Bay Park got the same feel on Friday. A light, off-and-on rain all day brought a gray, overcast ceiling for the event, one which seemed to make the 19th-century scenes portrayed by actors all the more realistic.

&uot;You can’t get these people to get out of character no matter how hard you try,&uot; said Terry Chadderdin, a parent escort with a group of fourth graders from Waseca. &uot;It really gives the kids a great experience.&uot;

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The annual rendezvous had its education days on Thursday and Friday which drew more than 3,800 students from around Minnesota as well as Iowa. &uot;We had a group from as far south as Des Moines,&uot; said Linda Bottelson, the chairman of the board for the festival. &uot;This year has gone extremely well.&uot;

Actors portraying 18th- and 19th-century people working many trades are the attraction of the festival. The grounds of Bancroft are dotted with canvas tents, teepees and old log shacks. Immigrants, farmers, musket shooters, Native Americans and blacksmiths are just a few of the occupations that are portrayed.

Roger Cook, of Gemmell, Minn. is impersonating a 19th-century blacksmith. It is his trade in real life as well, though he does have a bit more technology on his side in 2002. Cook says he loves the Rendezvous, and especially the education days, when he presents the history and demonstrates the trade as it was then.

&uot;I love talking to these kids. It’s a lot of fun playing in the first person for them,&uot; he said. &uot;On this side of the rope I’m pure 19th century.&uot;

Teachers and children alike say they enjoy the presentations as well.

&uot;It’s so much fun,&uot; said Bevy Lehman, 11, a sixth grader at Willow Creek Junior high school in Rochester. &uot;It’s a good learning experience getting to learn about life back then.&uot;

Students seem to have many favorite presentations. &uot;I like the tomahawk throwing,&uot; said Lehman. &uot;I love the shopping,&uot; said Lehman’s friend Ally Gizzi, 12.

Teachers are happy about the experience as well. &uot;We’ve been coming here for 11 years and have enjoyed it every time,&uot; said Lana Ballandby, a teacher at North Kossuth Middle School in Bancroft Iowa. &uot;It really lets us appreciate our luxuries.&uot;

&uot;And I think the kids like to get out of school, as well,&uot; she admitted, laughing.