2015 welcomed the twenty-first year of the Guild of St. Michael – Bristol. (Hooray! We can legally drink!) With every new season comes our annual pilgrimage to our first event of the season, Military History Fest (formally Reenactor Fest) in St. Charles, IL. The title of the event is pretty self-explanatory. Fellow reenactors come together, from all across the nation for a weekend convention, recognizing and recreating military and cultural history from all time periods. The convention is like no other of it’s kind. In addition to hundreds of costumed reenactors, it boasts real military vehicles, educational seminars on dozens of different topics, live entertainment and vendors with tables full of original and reproduction items, both military and civilian, as well as clothing, fabrics, sundries, movies, music and so much more. It also has something that has yet to be seen anywhere else…over a dozen live military encampments representing and impressing the Roman period all the way through modern era.
In those encampments is where you will find your beloved Trayn’d Bande at the sign of the Cock and Weasel tavern, the muster site of the Trayn’d Bandes of Bristol, under the command of Captain Sir William Gage (portrayed by our director Chris Last) and Lieutenant Nathaniel Harker (portrayed by Chris Budnick, our assistant director). We make it our mission to bring the late 1500’s to life, one edutainment at a time. (That’s right…edutainment. Education + Entertainment. It’s a real word….right?) And as with anything we do….. have a little fun.
We arrived at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL around 10 a.m. on the Friday of MHF. Some modifications and adjustments had been done to our encampment set the week prior, and we had yet to put everything together as a whole. The elite cadre that was there for set up, kicked it into high gear and we had the fastest set up to date. The walls and new fence pieces went up quickly and the encampment was ready to go just a little after MHF soft opening at noon. We all got dressed in our kits and were ready to edutain.
Opening Day always brings in a really special crowd, because anyone who has served in the military and is a veteran of any military branch gets in for free. It is really wonderful to see so many veterans come in either with their families and friends or even those who come solo. Watching the veterans look at the encampments is really something. Hearing and seeing their reactions to the impressions being represented is something that you can really take to heart. On Friday, I was taking some time to walk around and look at other encampments, and take some pictures to satisfy the photographer in me. When I shoot, I always find myself in the oddest positions to get as interesting of a shot as possible. I was in one of these typical odd positions, when an older gentlemen came up to me and struck up a conversation as to what I was doing. In our conversation, I learned that he served in Korea and that this was his first time at Military History Fest. As the conversation progressed, a siren went off in another encampment, and the man became visibly shaken. Immediately I asked if he was alright and he assured me that he was, but he hadn’t heard that siren since he served overseas, and he didn’t think he would have ever heard it again. I made sure he was alright and he assured me again that he was. We continued our conversation, and as it ended, I thanked him for his service. He smiled and nodded, and he said something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. He said, “I am glad that this occurs. It makes history harder to forget, so that the same things can’t happen.” With that, he patted my shoulder, smiled and walked away. I stood there, so impacted by the conversation but specifically by the last statement.
What he said is exactly why so many reenactors do what we do. The power in bringing history to life, as opposed to solely reading about it, has the potential for a long lasting impact. It reminds us where we came from and where we still are going.
As Friday winded down, the rest of those joining for the weekend began to show up, and we closed down the encampment just after 7pm, when the rest of MHF closed for the night. Day one was done. We had a few shenanigans up our sleeve but we had no idea what the rest of the weekend would bring, we just knew we were going to have fun. We are the rowdy table after all.
– Cheers –