FOR THE GAZETTE
On Victoria Day weekend, Ameliasburgh Heritage Village was filled with more than 30 Loyalist pioneers dressed in homespun and buckskin during the annual Gathering of Friends Rendezvous for Ontario’s history re-enactors.
While Saturday’s poor weather kept the number of visitors down, better weather on Sunday brought out more. Overall, nearly 70 people came out to meet the re-enactors and learn about life in Ontario during the late 18th and early 19th Century, said museum curator Janice Hubbs.
She said the re-enactors camped out in tents and teepees, and cooked their own food on traditional small stoves or fires. Some came early and stayed on-site for up to five days, but some who live locally came out during the day and went home each night, she added.
The Rendezvous is one of several held by re-enactors across Ontario each year.
“This is their kick-off for the season,” Hubbs said. “Some of the kids have been coming since they were babes in arms. It’s just old-fashioned family fun.” Mike Procter of Sharbot Lake said the Ameliasburgh event h
as been held for a long time.
“This is our 24th year,” Procter said.
Procter was one of the participants in the event’s tomahawk-throwing competition, with camp members pitted against members of the Kente Tomahawk and Knife Club.
“We don’t care who wins or loses,” he said. “We just have fun.” There were also competitions of knife-throwing and even an atlatl competition. An atlatl, or spear-thrower, is a weapon that can cast a short dart or a spear with added force.
Joanne Killick-Hill, of Whitby, has been going to these events as a re-enactor since 2001, when she attended one in Adolphustown with a friend. She was hooked immediately.
“Part of it is (being) a history buff,” she said. “Plus it’s the camaraderie. You get to know the people.”
Some of the campers, such as Sharon Miller of Athens, offered items for sale. On offer was everything from handmade soap and fruit preserves to clothing, accessories and items for the home. Some of the campers demonstrated traditional crafts and skills for visitors.
How do re-enactors decide what to wear?
“We tell people they can go French and Indian Wars (1754-1763) up to about 1840,” Killick-Hill said, but added that the majority dress as people from around 1800. Hubbs said different events may focus on different time periods within that range. “This one is Loyalist and trappers and traders,” she said.
Most of the participants left on Monday. Hubbs and her husband Ron made them a pancake breakfast to end the weekend’s festivities so the re-enactors didn’t have to cook breakfast and then wait for their pans and stoves to cool down before they could leave.
Ameliasburgh Heritage Village opened in 1968 with a single building, a former Wesleyan Church built 100 years earlier. The site now includes a complete pioneer village and many displays.