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Fair days are here for two Tri-State area forts

April 22, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Two Tri-State area forts will open their gates to traders, trappers, soldiers and civilians during 18th-century market fair celebrations today through Sunday.

Historically, the market fair was a few-day-long gathering to trade, buy and sell crafts, furs, produce, clothing, fabric and other supplies needed for the year to come. Participants also showcased their frontier and shooting skills, swapped tales of adventure and shared news from the Colonies, according to information from the Great North American Rendezvous Web site at www.gnarendezvous.org on the Web.

GNAR, a Cumberland County, Pa.-based group of re-enactors who give history demonstrations for the period between 1750 and 1840, will join the Fort Loudon Historical Society to sponsor the 18th Century Market Faire and Rifle Frolic at the Fort Loudoun Historical Site in Franklin County, Pa. Likewise, Friends of Fort Frederick State Park and park staff will host the 10th annual 18th Century Market Fair at historic Fort Frederick in Big Pool.

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GNAR last year decided to host the Fort Loudoun fair for the first time after the living history group that organized the Fort Frederick market fair - the Patuxents - chose to make the ninth annual event their last, GNAR President Richard "Fuzz" Fetterman said. Friends of Fort Frederick and park officials subsequently decided to take over the Fort Frederick fair's organization.

But there's plenty of history - and historical re-enactors - to go around, Fetterman said.

Many people don't realize Fort Loudoun's strong ties to the American Revolution, but "the first shots were fired and the first blood between the two nations was shed there," Fetterman said.

British Col. John Armstrong in 1756 built a stockade fort to protect settlers from marauding Indians on what then was the Pennsylvania frontier. The fort also played a big role as a fortified supply depot for westward-bound expeditions. The first British fort ever taken by armed Americans and the scene of America's first rebellion against the British, Fort Loudoun served until 1765, when it was abandoned. The Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission in 1993 commissioned a replica of the fort to be built on the original site. The Fort Loudon Historical Society now manages the fort.

More than 700 living history demonstrators will set up camp at the market fair to show frontier life as it was between 1640 and 1840, and about 125 sutlers will sell goods ranging from authentic 18th-century weaponry to handmade candles, Fetterman said. Sutlers also will host seminars about the historical significance of their products and the methods for producing them, he said.

"We have people coming from all over the world," Fetterman said. "It will be very, very informative."

The Fort Frederick fair will represent the time period of 1730 to 1790 - as opposed to the 200-year span portrayed during past market fairs.

"We took this opportunity to reformat the event to make it more germane to the historic period during which the fort was occupied," Park Manager Ralph Young said.

Fort Frederick was built by Gov. Horatio Sharpe with a contingent of provincial soldiers in 1756 to defend the colony of Maryland's western frontier during the French and Indian War. The stone fort's strength deterred would-be attackers and lent stability to a region rife with strife, as fort soldiers often patrolled nearby settlements, Young has said.

The fort became a prisoner camp for German and British soldiers during the Revolutionary War, and was occupied by Union troops guarding parts of the Potomac River during The Civil War.

Civilian and military living history demonstrators will set up camp within the fort's walls during the market fair, giving visitors a glimpse into 18th-century fort culture, Young said. Volunteer interpreters will present continuous living history programs, including cannon and musket firing and demonstrations of drilling and military life.

"These were the first 60 years that settlers inhabited the area, and so the encampment will have a very exciting and energetic feeling of what was then a new venture," said Steve Robertson, historian at Fort Frederick State Park.

In addition to the living history encampment, nearly 100 sutlers from throughout the country will demonstrate their crafts and sell such goods as tin- and copperware, pottery, period clothing and accessories, knives, reproduction firearms, textiles, lanterns and blacksmithing items, Young said.

All living history re-enactors and sutlers must adhere to strict rules to ensure that the public is correctly educated about the time period, Young said. The same is true for participants in the Fort Loudon event, the rules for which include:

n Only original or reproductions of articles used in North America between 1640 and 1840 may be displayed, sold or traded.

n No merchandise may be displayed in plastic wrappers or containers.

n No modern labels or price tags may be displayed.

n All sutlers must be in period attire and use period shelters and equipment.

In addition, living history demonstrators must dress in period attire and camp in period shelters. They can't wear wristwatches, modern sunglasses or modern earrings, or carry present-day firearms. Burlap bags or period containers must even be used for transporting ice or any modern item through camp.

"They have to stay in the time period because people come here expecting to see that period represented," Fetterman said.

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