By Carol Boettcher
I couldn't help but be intrigued by the SPY's Winter, 1998 issue with the above headline. It was helpful to hear the perspective of a re-enactor since, generally, not many people are willing to express their opinions. Human nature being what it is most people will long remember a negative comment or event much more easily than a whole bunch of positive things.
I am penning this from the other side of the fence. I am not a re-enactor. I am the person who will hear the comments—the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful--from re-enactors, visitors and staff.
I am the person that works with the host units' coordinator to ensure the needs of the re-enactors are met during the course of the event. I am the person who sets the budget for the event. I am the person who makes certain that firewood has been ordered, the straw will be delivered and stay dry, the roping material is on hand ready for staking, and the shopping list for rations has been properly executed and is delivered to the correct individual. I am the person who sees to it that restroom facilities are adequate and arrangements have been made to "freshen them up" over the course of two and half days.
I am the person who recruits volunteers from my organization to help out over the weekend. I am the person who reports the approximate number of re-enactors to my food service person to ensure there is adequate food and refreshments available for sale to participants and visitors (which is not always predictable). I am the person who contacts the local law enforcement agency to arrange help for parking cars and alert them to patrol the area overnight for the safety of the re-enactors. I am the person who sits down at my computer and designs the ad which will appear in area newspapers along with a press release. I am the person who calls the area newspapers seeking advertising information, rates and deadlines.
I am the person who arrives at the event site Friday afternoon and stays for several hours in the event the host unit has a need to fulfill. I am the person who arrives at the event site two and half to three hours before the admission gates open to see if any problems have arisen. I am the person who stays two to three hours past gate closing to wrap up any conflicts which may have been unresolved during the day. I am the person who must make a written report for our insurance company when there are injuries of any kind, be it to re-enactors or visitors. I am the person who has been praying to the weather gods to be kind and smile favorable on my weekend.
Do you know who I am?
I am the Rev War event coordinator for the event site. I am the person who attends the morning officer meetings to answer any questions and sometimes ask a few myself. I am the person who makes every effort to visit every unit and personally thank them for coming to the site and spending their weekend with us.
I am the person who is positively delighted when some creative people put their heads together and come up with several informative and entertaining scenarios about camp life during this time period and present them throughout the day. I am the person who is thrilled to see visitors two and three deep dialoging with re-enactors about their garments, weapons, cooking skills, medicinal capabilities, battle strategy, etc. I am the person who is most appreciative of the time and effort it takes to schedule the flint & steel demo, speedy spuds, bucket race (great on a hot day!), apple peeling, bayonet and tomahawk competition, the period dance demo, etc. and see visitors having a great time.
I am the person who feels honored to be invited into a camp to be "dressed properly" for the era and after hours invited to share a delicious meal with the families. I am the person who hears the comments, mostly second-hand from my staff, about how visitors enjoyed the event, what a great time they had and how the re-enactors were so nice to them answering their questions. I am the person to whom the staff remarks that this event is doing, or went, well and they look forward to next year's event. I am the person who hears the comments from re-enactors how they enjoyed the weekend, the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly staff. I am the person who, upon hearing these comments, says to myself, "People had a great time, sure, I'll do it again next year."
From my point of view, a successful event is only as good as those who plan it. As the saying goes, "you will get out of it that which you put into it." This works equally for both "sides."
What can be done? Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the event site. Have good battle plans and follow through with them. Understand where visitors can view the battle from--this point was stressed several times in past issues of The Courier [see the March, July August, and October, 1997 issues of The Courier -- ed].
I would think most rational people would understand stagecoaches and cowboys are not compatible with the Rev War era. Being able to communicate is probably the greatest factor of all. When there is good communication between those involved conflicts and misunderstandings are far less likely to happen. When people know what is expected of them we all get along better and are happier. If we (host units, re-enactors and event coordinators) work together we will have no trouble re-enacting the past for future generations..