Fort Massac State Park Metropolis, IL.
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by Betty Magrath
Photos by Bob Moore
© 2001, Southwest Illinois News
METROPOLIS, IL (SWI-News.com) October 19, 2001 - The annual Fort Massac Encampment, on Oct 20 - 21, recreated the lifestyles of the British, French and colonial American military forces, between 1757 and 1814. The event featured field exercises by military re-enactment regiments, demonstrations by period crafters, puppet shows, traditional music, games, storytelling, food booth, fireworks and a special cannon salute on the Ohio River.
The Fort Massac Encampment annually attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the free event. On Friday, October 19, area school children enjoyed an opportunity to learn about frontier life at the Fort and its many famous visitors, including Lewis & Clark. A replica of the keelboat used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition was brought down from St. Charles, Missouri for the occasion.
"This year was the maiden voyage of the keelboat we are looking at today. It went from Pierre to Yankton, S. Dakota," stated Jackson. "With all three boats, we have now covered the river paths that Lewis & Clark ran from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, where the original keelboat was made, down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi River between the confluences of the Ohio and the Missouri and then the Missouri River as far north as Pierre, South Dakota." The St. Charles Expedition is training for the 2003 - 2006 Lewis & Clark Bicentennial when they will reenact the waterway portions down the Ohio River and up the Missouri as far as the Great Falls in Montana in the keelboat and the two pirogues.
Tom Marshall, crew member of the St. Charles Expedition, stated that the Fort Massac Encampment provided a great opportunity for the organization to provide a genuine living history experience to area schools. "The Lewis & Clark Expedition was certainly a military expedition. From that aspect, the kids ask questions about the military and how it functioned in that time period and what the uniforms were like," said Marshall.
"The purpose of The Discovery Expedition is to teach an awareness of the greatness of the country and the explorations that occurred back in the early part of that century. We're trying to create a more patriotic feeling amongst the American people and the best way to do that is to talk to school children," stated Marshall. He noted that they had spoken with over 50,000 students in an effort to teach and educate and create a better awareness of history. Marshall added that the events of September 11 seemed to make the kids even more proud that they were part of a nation that could put on an expedition like this.
Joe Khayyatt, public events and promotions for Illinois Department of Natural Resources, noted that the special day of educational activities prior to Annual Encampment drew over 1,000 kids from all over Southern Illinois. He stated that after this year's event, the current structure will be taken down and completed reconstructed. Over the past 240 years, Fort Massac was rebuilt several times by the American military. The 1840's replica is in urgent need of substantial repairs as much of the wood has rotted.
In August, Gov. Ryan announced a $4.45 million project to reconstruct Fort Massac in time for the Lewis & Clark National Expedition Celebration in November 2003. "A lot of time and money was spend in researching what the new fort should look like. Once it's built, the Fort will be the most historically accurate during the time Lewis & Clark were here recruiting men for their expedition which began in 1803," stated Khayyatt. An enhanced visitor center will provide quality exhibits and facilities for the 1.6 million people who annually visit the 1,500 acre park and historic fort.
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