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What Ruins Events for Me

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One of my friends showed up at my door Sunday night. We have been doing reenactments and living history programs together for several years. He was in an awful hurry to leave when the event ended this year, when in the past he has stayed over until Monday before going home. The same problems he encountered this year, are the same ones I had last year, which is why I decided not to go. In fact, I had already made up my mind not to go this year when I was driving out of the event last year. Treat me badly once, and I am not doing it again.

I have invested thousands of dollars in my outfit and gear, taken time off work to travel and do the event, spent a lot in gas money. I am not going to waste my time there again.

I have a reputation to uphold. I feel that I should only participate at events where they seem to have their act together and treat us right. What do I mean by this?

First, the event has knowledgeable people doing the interpretation. No bad behavior, and nobody acting like drunk Indians. Yes, there has really been people doing that. I want to see people doing living history interpretation in the right context and know what they are doing. If you were able to go back in time, when you walked out of the time machine, I would hope that you could see a Seminole camp that looked like mine. Or go to New Orleans before the great battle at Chalmette, and see soldiers that look exactly like Steve Abolt's 7th Infantry soldiers. Look at events at Mississinewa or Fort Toulouse as an example.

I can understand inexperience from people just getting started. And hopefully they won't be wearing the tennis shoes next year and at least find a pair of moccasins. Weather we are paid or not, we are working, putting on a show, and have to treat it like our job. I am professional about living history, and I want everyone else to try and look professional.

Second, is that an event needs to treat the participants like royalty and bend over backwards for them. If you treat them worse than the public and interfere with their interpretation, you end up treating them badly. If you throw a bunch of rules & bureaucracy down that they feel is preventing them from doing their program the way they want to do it, they will not return next year. If they are packed and driving out as soon as the event ends at 5:00 p.m., or perhaps before, could it be that they had a bad time at the event?

Also treat the period vendors the same way. They are interpreters as well, but just happen to be selling period items. And they need to make money because it is their business and livelihood. They are having a lot of trouble right now and probably not eating three meals a day. Don't overwhelm an event with modern junk pow wow blue tarp vendors, and put them in the back where they won't make any money. I bet the period vendors won't return next year.

Third is when there are a lot of people at the event who are spokesmen that present incorrect history or portrayals. That is a subtle way of belittling those who are correct and know their history, but are kept silent in the back or on the sidelines. Why do they have someone giving a program or narration, and saying stuff that is just not true? I have seen people who were doing programs or narrations at events, and they are telling things which are crap. At a recent event, a person doing a narration before a battle told how the Seminoles walked all the way from Florida to Oklahoma. Sorry, it didn't happen that way.

So if you have any of these things going on, the event is not worth my time and effort to participate at. Interpreters who are out of context or giving an inaccurate portrayal. Participants treated badly. So-called "experts" and narrators spouting off incorrect things while a knowledgeable person is kept silent in back. I am ashamed to say that too much of this is going on these days, and most of the events in Florida are full of this. I want quality. I want to do events that are worth the time and effort that I put into my outfit and camp. I have put thousands of dollars into my outfit and camp, and have worked at them for years. And then go to an event to be treated like crap with a bunch of people walking around who don't have their act together? Forget that!

Save yourself a lot of trouble and don't waste your time. I can make up my mind awfully quick when I attend events. It's not hard after 23 years. By the time I leave on Sunday, I know if I will be back next year or not.

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On March 6th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Rough reenactments
Gee, Chris, are you sure that you aren't describing parts of the Dade Reenactments of twenty years ago? Dade always treated its reenactors very well, but some of those reenactors - like the one wearing a yellow nylon chiffon scarf around his neck? Or the beaded hat headband that spelled out LYNERD SKYNNER? Well, he had purchased it at the Tampa res, so technically it really was a Seminole artefact. Or the very serious young man at a Fort Foster telling people how dedicated he was to his heritage and how his outfit was 100% authentic to the 1840's, complete with the 20th century patchwork on his longshirt? If you wanted to make a political comment, you could go to a reenactment as an Australian aborigine and tell everybody that you lost the rest of your outfit in trade, - Rick O.
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On March 6th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Rough reenactments
Try as we might, I guess some things never change.
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On March 9th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
What ruins events
I could not be more in agreement with every point, Chris. At many sites, management is hard-pressed to "police" the reenactors, since they have a million things to do and even planning time is limited. So I am willing to be patient while events grow - up to a point. If people with demonstrable expertise and credentials are giving event managers input, and they (the managers) are resistent or incapable of improvement, then I - along with the other capable reenactors - will walk. Good luck, event bosses, with those buckskinners, cow udder hat wearers, saloon girl impersonators, ribbon-shirt and Nike moc wearers.

So glad you mentioned, in contrast, Ft. Toulouse! I drive 11 hours each way, twice a year, for my "fix" of first-class reenactment at that site! And here's a key observation: From having seen the internal machinery at that and other, less period correct events, I can say for a fact that it eats up just as much energy and effort to produce a bad event as a good one. It's all a question of CHOICE. If site/event managers CHOOSE to let rondyzooers and plastic bead vendors dominate their event, they are 100% to blame for letting the event go to blazes. In sites/events that rely to any degree on public monies, that is not just a an embarrassment: it is a betrayal of public trust. And for sites/events that court school groups: Shame on you! You are creating false impressions of history that will be difficult to ever correct.
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On March 9th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: What ruins events
So correct!
You would think that after we have been doing this for so long that site managers would learn from the mistakes of others. But apparently not. I've been doing this for 23 years. For others, even 25 or 30 years. This year I have been very selective on which events I attend. It has been much better to attend four really good events this year, than a dozen crappy ones.
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