This fall, return to 1840s frontier life with a visit to northeast Iowa during the 40th Annual Fort Atkinson Rendezvous. Held in 2016 on Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25, the annual Rendezvous recreates Iowa frontier life with an 1840s military camp, authentic buckskinners, U.S. Army dragoons, black powder shoots, cannon drills, a Conestoga wagon, tepees and lodges, crafts people, contests and demonstrations.
Located in the city of Fort Atkinson, the Fort Atkinson Historic District is the location of a stockade 1840s fort whose military personnel enforced the federal government’s Indian removal policies, especially policing the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) who had been forced from their Wisconsin homelands into the Neutral Ground buffer strip in what is now northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota. No major battles were fought at the fort positioned prominently on a bluff top high above the surrounding terrain in Winneshiek County. When completed in 1842, the fort included at least 24 buildings within a 11’ 9” stockade wall, and 14 additional buildings outside of the wall. The buildings were made of limestone, log, or wood-framed construction. In 1848, eight years after the fort’s construction, the Ho-Chunk were removed to central Minnesota. The fort was acquired by the state in 1921, with reconstruction beginning in 1958. In 1968, the fort was dedicated as part of the State Preserves System due to its geological, archaeological and historical value.
Every September since 1977, a two-day buckskinner’s rendezvous and associated 'children’s school day' have been held at the fort. Approximately 100 tents and tepees will be on the fort grounds during the rendezvous weekend with hundreds of rendezvous participants, called buckskinners, dressed in period clothes or military uniforms of the 1840s time period. Numerous 'trade blankets' will be laid out next to tepees displaying pioneer items such as hand woven baskets, pottery, glassware, scrimshaw, animal furs, and pioneers clothes and tools.
Also on display on the fort grounds will be a full size replica of the frontier Conestoga wagon used to haul supplies to the military post.
Lots of fun events that took place at the original frontier rendezvous’ will occur on the post grounds and will include shooting contests, tomahawk throwing, flint & steel fire starting, an 1840s cooking contest, a skillet throw, and 1840s kids games. (A skillet throw?! Yes, you read that correctly.) Other pioneer sights and sounds greeting visitors include the training of soldiers dressed in period military uniform, the shooting of the anvil, and cannon drills.
Throughout the weekend, you’ll have a chance to see a melodrama by The Country Road Players. Don’t worry about getting hungry, as a variety of pioneer foods will be available for purchase on the grounds including kettle corn, fry bread, stew, Indian tacos, home-made root beer, and other period food items.
There is no admission charge to visitors attending the rendezvous or for parking. A public school bus will shuttle visitors back and forth from the fort to downtown, as cars cannot be driven up or parked around the post grounds.
The 40th annual Fort Atkinson Rendezvous will be open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 24th, and from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 25th.
This family friendly event is sponsored by the Fort Atkinson Community and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and volunteers on the Friends of Fort Atkinson Rendezvous Committee. The event is held with permission from the Iowa State Preserves Advisory Board
What: 40th Annual Fort Atkinson Rendezvous
Where: Fort Atkinson State Preserve, Fort Atkinson, Iowa
When: Saturday, September 24, 2016, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Sunday, September 25, 2016, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm.
Cost: No admission charge. Free parking, with shuttle buses.
Photo credit: Fort Atkinson Rendezvous