This weekend, September 27th and 28th, step back in time at the Fort Rendezvous Days in Fort Atkinson in Winneshiek County. This is a great family event that every age will enjoy. The Annual Rendezvous Days has been held the last full weekend of September at Fort Atkinson State Preserve since 1977.
The event recreates life on the 1840's Iowa frontier with authentic buck skinners, U.S. Army dragoons, black powder shoots, crafts people, contests and demonstrations. Fort Atkinson was built to keep the Winnebago Indians on Neutral Ground (a forty-mile-wide strip of land established by the Treaty of 1830) after their removal from Wisconsin in 1840, and to provide protection for them from the Sioux, Sauk, Fox and from white intruders on Indian land.
Buckskinners and pioneer costumed people demonstrate various skills of the time period. These skills included, the tomahawk throw, pottery making, basket weaving, spinning wool, flint & steel (fire making), musket shooting, cannon drill, anvil shoot, a military camp where soldiers perform maneuvers and explain uniforms, and blacksmithing.
The biggest thrill for the kids is the cannon drill. As the cannon is lit, everyone covers their ears for the large explosion of smoke and noise. Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1 p.m. it is scheduled. Jim Kowalski, of Dickeyville, Wis. made the cannons and has blasted the cannons off more than thirty-some years at Ft. Atkinson Rendezvous. Another person who has worked beside him from the beginning is Larry Bernhardt of Cassville, Wis. Jim's dad, Doc (now deceased), was also part of the original team.
The anvil shoot, which consists of black powder put in the anvil, with another anvil on top and a line lit from a long ways away by Scott Sindelar of Ft. Atkinson, making an explosive force that shoots the top anvil very far up in the air in a cloud of smoke. For safety reasons, the crowd is told to back way up, because the big, heavy piece of iron can shoot up as high as the flag pole at the Fort and can come flying down just as far
The military group called The Ghost Garrison usually is in attendance with Jason Gordon from Iowa Falls as Corporal. Jason showed how they would use found objects to make things to pass the time in the evening. Jason made a banjo from a round tin. The camp cook, Harold Steward from Coalville, shows how the military cooked in the 1840's.
Susan Massman from New Hampton, has demonstrated traditional Northeast Iowa basket weaving and sells her baskets at the Fort Rendezvous Days and other Rendezvous events around the state. Susan, originally from Festina, has also helped youth organizations learn to weave historic baskets. Susan is not only talented, but a patient teacher. You will find Susan each year beside the homemade rootbeer stand....so you can't miss her, as most everyone heads for the popular old fashioned rootbeer and kettle corn at the Rendezvous! There will also be many tents set up selling their wares, with lots of fun trinkets for whole family.
And what better way to learn about the past than being able to step back in time and learn about American history first hand?