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History to Be Made & Revisited in Ontonagon
by C.J. Williams, MWPR - 2005 National Advertising Coordinator
Ontonagon - Michigan history will be made this summer, July 29th - August 6th, in an area already rich in history dating back for centuries. The occasion will be the National Midwest NRLHF Pre-1840 Rendezvous, the first national rendezvous ever to be held in the state's beautiful Upper Peninsula. The selected site is just outside the village limits of Ontonagon and along side the Ontonagon River. NRLHF refers to the National Rendezvous and Living History Foundation, which sponsors the national rendezvous events throughout American all year long.
Traditionally all of Michigan was part of the Old Northwest Territory rendezvous circuit, but the U.P. was recently conceded to the Midwest circuit. And so another first will make its mark in '05 rendezvousing history, as the Ontonagon event will be the first National Midwest Rendezvous ever to be held anywhere in the state. Additionally, the '05 National Midwest will mark the first time a Tall Ship will make an appearance during the days of any national rendezvous event anywhere in the country.
This historic first will be led by Booshway Tom Hamilton of Virginia, who for many years has wanted to bring a national rendezvous to the land of his birth near the shores of Lake Superior, the shores of Gitche Gumee immortalized in Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha".
The National Midwest Rendezvous will be held at a picturesque and expansive grassy green area located at the end of a road, aptly named River Road, running by the town's marina and along the banks of the Ontonagon River. Early set-up will get understand on July 25th and it won't take long for the pastoral scene to be dotted with hundreds of primitive white walled tents and tepees, typical of pre-1840 America.
Participant attendance at a primitive event means that all clothing, lodges, and accouterments must be in keeping with the period of 1640 through 1840 in North America. All modern day items must be kept out of sight at all times, and even photography equipment must be covered when not in use. Safety is paramount in all things, but particularly in the use of weaponry and fires. As in all settlements, tasks will be assigned to make sure everything is run according to Hoyle without jeopardizing the pleasure and camaraderie of the rendezvous participants and their families.
"While one might think that leaving the creature comforts of modern day living behind in favor of a primitive experience such as these rendezvous provide, it's a form of recreation thousands of men, women, and children enjoy year round," said Tom Hamilton. "It goes toward saying much about these folks dedication to a traditional heritage spawned in years gone by."
The National Midwest Rendezvous will be open to the public daily from 9 am until 5 pm July 29th through August 6th. While the shooting contests, hawk and knife throws, women's cooking contests and games, and children's games are limited to registered rendezvousers only, the public is most welcome to watch these events and root for winners of their choice.
The public is also very welcome to watch the cannoneers at work and to check out the voyager's canoes, replicates of those used by French trappers to transport the fruits of their labor. Some Voyagers coming to Ontonagon will be treated to a pre-rendezvous trip to Lake Superior's Isle Royale aboard the Ranger III, moored between the Copper Country sister cities of Houghton and Hancock on the Portage Canal. Upon arrival, the trappers will carry out a documented expedition around the island, bringing back tales of their adventure to share will all.
Voyagers and others along the Great Lakes depended greatly on schooners, also called Tall Ships, sailing to and from the port of Montreal where goods were off loaded and then the ships reloaded with badly needed supplies. Although rendezvous supplies will not be shipped to Ontonagon, one such schooner will be sailing into the Ontonagon Harbor during eh days of the rendezvous, weather permitting.
Ontonagon village officials, with a great deal of support from community members and friends throughout the Copper Country have worked with the American Sail Training Association and now have a nod of approval for the Tall Ship Denis Sullivan to set sail toward the "Harbor Town" this summer. The "Tall Ships" are supported by the Copper Country Community Arts Council and is a program of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Plans call for the replicated schooner, Milwaukee home port "Pier Wisconsin," to drop anchor in the Ontonagon Harbor the afternoon of Friday, July 29th and remain until Monday, August 1st for a full day of "sail touring" and dockside inspection.
To add to the excitement, it's anticipated the size of the Denis Sullivan will be truly appreciated as smaller boats under sail escort it into view. Ontonagon Village Manager, Penny Osier, may be contacted at 906-884-2305 for more information about the visiting ship's itinerary. Information about Pier Wisconsin and American Sail Training Association can be found online at www.pierwisconsin.org and www.tallshipssailing.org.
In anticipation of the arrival of the Tall Ship, the rendezvous staff is preparing to work with village officials, ASTA, and Pier Wisconsin to present a historical pre-1840 "Greeting Ceremony" re-enactment for the Captain of the Denis Sullivan and her crew. This will include the Captain and representatives of the Denis Sullivan, community officials, Native Americans, the rendezvous staff, and other rendezvous participants, such as the Voyagers dressed in traditionally colorful pre-1840 clothing.
According to Booshway Hamilton, the ceremony will take place under the direction of knowledgeable members of the National Rendezvous and Living History Foundation, and include a re-enactment of a "Council Fire Meeting and Greeting" between the four groups, the "Smoking of the Peace Pipe", and an "Exchange of Ceremonial Gifts". After exchanging gifts, the village's Master of Ceremonies will introduce community leaders and visiting dignitaries for a more modern day tribute to the history of the area, concluding with the "Firing of the Cannons" brought in from the rendezvous site.
During the Rendezvous Days there will be many historical and educational seminars hosted each day, which the public may also attend. The long seminar list includes such titles as Scottish History and Culture, Silversmithing, Medicinal Herbs in North America, Woodenware: The Proper Dish, Leatherworking, Jesuit Rings: Trade Items for the Indians, and a Bow and Arrow Demonstration, which will be done using primitive archery equipment. Most seminars are an hour in length.
Another popular area for participants and the public to gather will be "Trader's Row" where many talented rendezvousers display and sell homemade wares and collectibles indicative of pre-1840 America. This may include bead workers, leatherworkers, sliver and coppersmiths, blacksmiths, candle makers, bow and arrow craftsmen, furniture makers and carvers, potters, Native American crafters, weavers, and a host of others, all well skilled in their various trades.
Should hunger or thirst set in, visitors will find provisions to satisfy needs, and might even be entertained by a passing fiddler or two with a gleam of merriment in their eyes. Sanitary facilities will be located on site, but they won't be as primitive as the public might expect at a pre-1840 rendezvous. As participants are not allowed to have pets within the gate, it's requested that visitors also respect this rule.
There will be special youth days when scout packs and other children's groups will receive some undivided attention, and all days enlisted military, veterans, as well as members of servicemen's auxiliaries, will be admitted at a reduced rate, provided they wear caps denoting their military branch of service or membership in a veteran's auxiliary.
The cost of admission will be $4 for adults and $2 for children ages 13 to 18; children ages 12 and under will be admitted at no cost. The staff respectfully requests that a parent or responsible adult accompanies children under their care at all times while at the rendezvous site.
"I know I can speak on behalf of the 2005 National Midwest Rendezvous staff when I say how appreciative we are of the Village of Ontonagon's citizens; as well as all in the surrounding communities," said the Booshway. "So many folks in the U.P. are welcoming the National NRLHF Pre-1840 Rendezvous, it's participants, and ou4r visitors to share in the magic that I've always felt makes this part of America so special.
Anyone wanting more information about the NRLHF Rendezvous should explore www.MWPR2005.com. Additionally, questions may be asked of C.J. Williams at (906) 338-2507 or email@example.com, and also by calling Tom Hamilton in Virginia at (804)328-1532.
Maps, registration information, and site for camping can be viewed in great details at http://www.mwpr2005.com/welcome.htm.