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Big Island Rendezvous education days give students chance to experience history

 

Students from across Minnesota and Iowa are getting a piece of living history this week at the Big Island Rendezvous education days.

“I have kids come in here excited that they’re at the Rendezvous, but they’re even more excited when they leave because they have actually lived part of this history,” Big Island Rendezvous worker Catherine Bachman said. Bachman has volunteered at the Big Island Rendezvous for 32 years.

The Big Island Rendezvous, now in its 32nd year, celebrates frontier history with live reenactors, period-appropriate food and vendors selling related merchandise. Thursday’s education day had over 1,000 children attend. More are expected Friday.

A Civil War union soldier reenactor regales students with tragic wartime stories Thursday at Bancroft Bay Park. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Bachman said the experience for children during education days and adults during the open Rendezvous are about the same: everyone gets demonstrations or talks from flute-makers, weavers, silversmiths, candlemakers and trappers, all relating to life for settlers in the 1800s.

On Thursday, children from a Lake Mills class gathered around a potter as he demonstrated first pinch pots, then coil pots, then, as pom-pom hats leaned in closer to see, throwing clay on a wheel as he worked his way chronologically up through pottery techniques.

“The way people dress up makes you feel like you’re in the adventure or you’re a part of the history,” St. John Vianney School fifth-grader Ella Krahmer said.

Students jump rope during the Big Island Rendezvous education days Thursday at Bancroft Bay Park. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Reenactor Annie Peters, who has participated in the Rendezvous for over 20 years, provided children with period dishwashing demonstrations. She said having the children come for education days made her feel like she was doing something helpful and useful.

During Big Island Rendezvous, Al Cannon is captain of the 8th Texas dismounted cavalry. When he’s not at the Rendezvous, he co-owns Hewitt Hauling in Mason City. They shut down the business for Rendezvous time. Cannon said it is his vacation. He began reenacting in 1996 at age 14.

Students try their hands at hatchet throwing Thursday during Big Island Rendezvous education days. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“I find it best when you get the kids who are wide-eyed who just sit there and every word, they hang on when you’re talking … they grip onto it and they just soak it in … that’s the moment,” Cannon said. “It makes everything I do all year long just worth it, right there.”

For some, those learning moments were about pinch pots. Krahmer said she learned about all the uses for a cow horn. St. John Vianney School fifth-grader Thomas Hamlet learned quite a bit about the Lewis and Clark expedition, he said.

A reenactor playing President Abraham Lincoln tells students of Lincoln’s life and his assassination. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“(The reenactors) do more of a demonstration than you get in the classroom,” he said.

Fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Phyllis Surrenant said the Rendezvous gives her students a representation of varied time periods.

“It’s an awesome place to bring kids to learn,” she said.

Thursday’s education day had over 1,000 children attend, with more expected Friday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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