Spirit of Vincennes 2021
Updated: Jun 4, 2021
So this is our first blog entry. We come home with all these amazing stories, many of which end up related to things outside the re-enacting world, and so we have finally decided to share our experiences.
After not having done an event in over a year and a half due to COVID, we were definitely excited to get going on opening this year's season. Joshua had let his hair grow out during the off time and he didn't actually make the "final cut" to his hair until the morning we left! (Procrastination is not generally my style, it's too stressful, but it works for him nearly all the time... that lucky dog!) Side note: if you do native re-enacting and you actually wear a scalp lock, you can really have a lot of fun during your initial haircut. Once you've removed random sections of hair, be sure to find your significant other and ask them what they think. Moment of honesty here: I actually cried the first time I knew Josh was going to cut his hair. I was just afraid, I think. As it turns out, he looks GREAT! (He has one of those nice roundy head shapes and nice jaw line, and .. well I could go on and on. Just see for yourself in the pictures.) I won't mention the random old ladies that come up to him to tell him how handsome he is. Legit, that happened.
We arrived in Vincennes in the late evening but there was plenty of daylight left to set up, which I can't say about all the times we've been to Vincennes. Setting up in the dark is absolutely no fun and I don't recommend it. It was chilly and was drizzly, not my favorite. Luckily, we have a simple set up and were able to quickly unload the demonstration/display contents and transition the van to our sleeping set up. Josh made a neat build out so that we could have storage space under the bed. We've always been able to fit a full size bed in the van (yay for stow-and-go seating!) but it took up nearly all the floor space. With the build out we can store things under the bed and still fit the cooler behind the driver seat. I guess maybe one day I'll do a blog post about the van stuff.
We knew the weather was forecast to be cool but we were not prepared. It is usually in the upper 80's during this event. We woke up to temps in the lower 40's and it didn't get much above 60 degrees throughout the day. The food vendors that had coffee were sold out before the event even opened due to campers purchasing coffee. I've been on decaf for while now so I didn't even try, figuring most people are on the caffeine train. We usually don't do cold weather events so we don't have hardly any gear for those conditions. We keep saying we're going to make fur-lined moccasins but it hasn't happened yet. It was a surprisingly busy day despite the weather conditions. From the talk, it was most definitely a record year and they knew it would be after the first day. Some of the food vendors ended up buying additional food on Saturday night to prepare for the Sunday crowd.
This event is gracious enough to feed the re-enactors, which is a huge deal to have cooked food that you didn't have to prepare yourself. They had a feast of turkey, stuffing, brown-sugar carrots, coleslaw, green beans, deep fried biscuits (holy moly deep fried biscuits!) with apple butter and a variety of cobblers. (I know, I know,... insert drooling emoji here.) Speaking of food, normally at this event I get raspberry iced tea and some strawberries and cream with shortcake. The food lines this year practically did not end. Nearly everything ended up sold out. We did manage to get some chicken and dumplings and a kebab on Saturday morning (I mean, come on, any hot food would have done the trick but this stuff was good!) as well as some homemade strawberry ice cream on Sunday (when the sun finally came out!).
I'm realizing that if you have read this far and you don't already know what we actually do at events, this is probably a good time to fill you in. Joshua teaches native archery and tomahawk throwing as well as provides a display of handmade items from the time period. Nearly everything in the display he made. Let's be fair, that's a lot of stuff and a lot of skill on display. But we do have some help from some friends on a few things. (Jarrod of H&B Forge is the blacksmith for the tomahawks. We have some of his work for sale in our shop in case you just can't wait. Work straight from him is usually on back order.) Back to the teaching part. Joshua actually teaches how to shoot and throw. One of the things I absolutely love about how he conducts this aspect of business, is that he can actually do the things he is teaching. I've always been impressed with his skill and how adept he is at actually doing the shooting and throwing. I don't know about you but I don't necessarily want to learn a physical activity from someone that just TALKS about it. I want someone that can DO it. He can.
One of the highlights of any event is the interaction with friends, new and old. Perry Riley Jr. is always a pleasure to run into. This man makes gourd art and put simply: It. Is. Amazing. Just Google him and you will find a massive amount of information and photos detailing some of what he does. And that's just it, what you see is only a small portion of what he does. Let me just give you an example. He grows and processes all of his own gourds! He digs out water gardens alone. I found two interesting articles that some local newspapers did on him a few years back. They are worth the read.
Another interesting character we had the pleasure of chatting with was Jesse Coomer. There is quite a story that goes along with this one. I'll give you the quick version, I promise. Josh and I, at least a year and half ago, maybe more, got into something called the Wim Hof Method. It is basically a program of deep breathing and cold exposure. Maybe sometime I'll make a whole blog post about that stuff too...or you can just read about it yourself. But because I promised the short version: Wim Hof is known around the world as the Ice Man. He is THE guy. So someone at the event this weekend (Tom Gillingham) told me in passing that Jesse Coomer was into ice baths and "all that stuff". Jesse portrays the town crier during this rendezvous so when we saw him walking about with his bell and loud mouth (that's supposed to be a compliment, seriously, what kind of town crier would he be if you couldn't hear him?) we just had to stop him and ask him about his ice bath methods. Come to find out, Jesse is a certified Wim Hof instructor and has even trained under Wim himself in Poland! He's even written a book! I mean, what are the chances that we would find another crazy person that likes getting in cold water everyday?? Pretty cool! <-- Did you see what I did there? Lol.
Another big draw for the crowd (aside from us, just saying) is the oxen team. Our friend and living history mentor Gerry Barker retired somewhat recently which left a serious void in the re-enacting world, not just in oxen but in a huge body of knowledge and the application of that knowledge. With big shoes to fill, Mark and Monica Hufford have hauled oxen to several events now. We had the pleasure of meeting them two years ago (I think) at Vincennes and they make great neighbors. We end up set up next to them each year here. Oxen are amazing animals and, thankfully, don't get too upset by crazy kids, cannon blasts, etc. I'm really trying to think of a joke where I could use "moo" but I'm coming up short... I'll just have to MOO-ve on. (Boo!)
Some others we saw in passing here were: Jenny Slover (she makes soap! Handmaids Handmade Soap), Penny Wayne (Kentucky Leather and Hides), Terry Wise (one of the event organizers, interesting and knowledgeable fellow), Tom Gillingham (another event organizer, also takes great pics like the one below from a few years ago!).
Well. Here lies the end of our first blog post. Thanks for reading, hopefully there is more to come!