Fort George weekend in the papers
- The drill weekend at Fort George made it into the papers.
The crack of musket fire and the staccato, high-pitched refrain of a fife was the first early dress rehearsal at Fort George Sunday for the big show coming in three years.
Re-enactors in training and historical interpreters were at the Niagara-on-the-Lake fort to start the long preparations for the bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812.
"If you think about it, if that war had gone the other way, we might not be here, or the country would be a very different place," said site supervisor Dan Laroche. "It was an important event for this nation."
Come 2012, Fort George and other historic sites around Niagara will be bustling with activity, including battle re-enactments. But Laroche said the big shows only work because of the strength of the volunteers who bring the past to life.
"It cannot be done without them and the hundreds of hours they put in," he said. "So what we are doing today is helping teach people how to do this."
Under the watchful eye of experienced re-enactor Tom Fournier of the 41st Regiment of Foot based out of Hamilton, rookies were put through the paces Sunday.
Among them was James Rolston of St. Catharines, a first- ime re-enactor who came to Fort George to learn how to be a 19th century soldier.
"I've been interested in history all my life," said Rolston, dressed as an irregular soldier. "I've always wanted to do this, and with the anniversary of the War of 1812 coming up it seemed like the right time. It's the reason I am doing this now."
Fournier taught Rolston, along with Harrison Burrill of Hamilton, the basics of marching, shooting and loading muskets.
"It's a little different than what they might be used to or have seen from our modern military," Fournier said. "Today, soldiers tend to stomp and slap their weapons. By comparison, the way they did it in the past was much quieter."
Learning the basics is just the start. Re-enactors have to supply their own weapons and costumes. Historical interpreter Peter Mitchell, who led a musket fire display for the handful of tourists who visited the fort Sunday morning, said it can cost re-enactors as much as $2,000 to equip themselves.
Laroche said Fort George, which officially opens for the tourist season next weekend, and historical societies around Ontario will be training new people constantly in the leadup to 2012.
"We want anyone who might be interested in this sort of thing to visit us, or go to their local historical society and talk to them. The more people we can get involved the better," he said.
School of the Soldier' was held at Fort George in Niagara--on-the-Lake Sunday, as organizers lay the foundation for the bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812. Visitors were able to watch about 200 re-enactors in uniforms from 1812 act out battle scenes and various demonstrations. Pte. Doug Clark, centre, of the 1st Regiment of Royal Scots practises musket drill routines