Monday, July 19, 2010

76-Second Travel Show: 'How to be a Reenactor'

Episode #039
F E A T U R I N G * 7 2 * B O N U S * S E C O N D S

Last year, I traveled to Gettysburg to answer the immortal question: how do reenactors decide who dies first, in what order, during mock battles? I never really got a straight answer. And the 2009 version of the battle -- Gettysburg's legendary Pickett's Charge -- led to zero Confederate fatalities, unlike the real event which was a slaughter leading to bloodied gray uniforms. But I liked the reenactors. They meant what they did, were happy to share their world of wool uniforms on 100-degree days, and share why they did it.

This year I wanted more. And got 'INTO' the role, and see how it feels on the INSIDE of the world of reenactments. Well, a little.

Every July 8, Philadelphia quietly holds an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence National Historic Park with a couple dozen reenactors taunting and celebrating the document. And they were kind enough to sit aside some buckled shoes, knee pants and tri-cornered hat for me to wear. And, at a last-second debriefing of that reenactment plan, a ponytailed ranger asked for 'Loyalist' volunteers, and I naturally raised my hand.

It was fun. Yelling 'traitor!' and 'hang him!' before the Independence Hall. But it wasn't easy. Nerves swelled walking into the mass, where visitors quickly learned I supported the king, and let me know their disapproval, and with it the realization I don't know the history of the time as well as I should.

I asked why they did it, and one reenactor -- a ranger by day -- told me, 'Each year we have people say they didn't know that some people were against independence. That's pretty much the answer.'

Thanks to the park and Steven Edenbo, aka 'Thomas Jefferson.'

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