Bancroft Bay Park to host Big Island Rendezvous

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 1, 2017

History lovers from around the region will flock to Albert Lea next weekend for the 31st annual Big Island Rendezvous and Festival at Bancroft Bay Park.

The festival begins Thursday and Friday with Education Days, when more than 2,600 students from between 30 and 40 schools in Minnesota and Iowa are expected to travel to town to learn about Minnesota and early American history, said organizer Perry Vining.

More than 70 stations will be set up with various re-enactors, such as blacksmiths, woodworkers, farmers, candlemakers, silversmiths, spinners, weavers, hunters and soldiers, among others.

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Vining said students arrive in the morning, and rotate every 30 minutes to a different presentation to learn from the re-enactors, who he described as “history interpreters.” After a break for lunch, the students continue through more presentations in the afternoon so that by the end of the day, they have gone through anywhere from about five to nine presentations.

All of the students, chaperones and teachers who attend receive a free ticket to the festival to come back on the weekend and check out more of the stations.

The festival, voted one of the top 100 festivals in North America by the American Bus Association, is open to the public Oct. 7 and 8.

Vining said when the festival began in 1987, there were 43 re-enactors representing the 1700s and 1800s. Now, there are over 1,000.

“We’re looking forward to a great weekend,” he said.

Vining said one of the highlights as in years past will be the live rounds shot from cannons by the New Ulm Battery. The people who operate the cannons are descendants of the original New Ulm Battery soldiers. These demonstrations will happen three times each day.

Live music will add to the festival. On Saturday will be entertainers Sister Tree, Bob Bovee and Pop Wagner, Wild Goose Chase Cloggers, and Strangebyrds, Roe Family Singers and RPR, formerly known as Tanglefoot.

On Sunday, Dick Kimmel and Adam Granger, RPR, Roe Family Singers and Strangebyrds will perform.

In addition, a selection of specialty foods will be offered, including kettle korn, fry bread, homemade root beer, stuffed baked potatoes, pork chop on a stick, Indian tacos, funnel cakes, wild rice soup and smoked turkey legs.

The Big Island Rendezvous and Festival is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for children ages 6 to 11 and free for children 5 and younger. Group reservations can be made by calling 800-658-2526.

Vining said family passes to cover everyone in a household can be purchased for $25.

People can park at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds and take a free shuttle to the festival entrance.

If you go

What: Big Island Rendezvous & Festival

When: Oct. 7 and 8; gates open at 9 a.m. each day

Where: Bancroft Bay Park

Tickets: $12 for adults, $7 for ages 6 to 11, free for children 5 and under; family passes are $25

More information: Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, Albert Lea grocery stores and local banks.