Alafia River Rendezvous 2013

Alafia River Rendezvous 2013

PHOTOS AND STORY BY MARIA IANNUCCI

It’s likely that no one reading this has had to spend their lives living a truly primitive lifestyle. Most of us don’t generally need to be concerned about having an adequate supply of firewood to keep warm on cold nights, making a new dress, or keeping your tent dry and comfortable for you and your family. But for the Florida Frontiersmen and the over 1,200 participants of the annual Alafia River Rendezvous in Homeland, this weeklong retreat is a celebration of pre-1840 life with family and friends.

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In its 42nd year, the Alafia River Rendezvous is held in January each year. This year’s theme was “Howl at the Moon,” a notion that was made when all campers were asked to howl at the same time each evening. The event is an invitation to step into the past and create a camp community as similar as possible to those in existence about 200 years ago. The Southeast’s largest pre-1840 interpretive encampment is only one of four that take place nationwide annually; and the Florida Frontiersmen are proud to own the land on which the Rendezvous is held. The event, with the exception of the final Friday and Saturday, is closed to the public.

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A rendezvous was a pre-determined place and time set for fur trappers to meet up with fur traders. This kept the trapper from having to come all the way back to civilization to cash in their beaver plews (or skins) and other furs they had collected. To the fur trapper, the rendezvous was like our present day state fair. It was a great time to socialize with other trappers and to find out what was going on back home, as it might only take place about once a year. It was also pay day; they would bring their furs and trade them for necessities they would need for the upcoming year. When the trading was over, it was time for fun. There was singing, dancing, horse races, foot races, target shooting, knife throwing, and lots of other activities.

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At the Alafia River Rendezvous, which ran Jan. 19-26 this year, there are many facets to the gathering that help demonstrate the lifestyles of the past. While many of us consider camping something you do in an air-conditioned RV, Rendezvous camping is done in a primitive tent make of canvas and framed with wooden poles. Keeping warm becomes more about colorful wool blankets and not about propane heaters. Cooking on an open campfire is the preferred method of creating a culinary masterpiece, rather than a microwave that can’t be plugged in anywhere. Participants must wear period-correct attire; this can range from the American Revolution to Native American clothing, and includes women and children of all ages.

Participants of the interpretative encampment not only live the period lifestyle, but work within its parameters as well. Over 100 craftsmen and “stores” – most consisting of no more than a canvas tent, primitive tables or goods placed on blankets on the ground – offer a bountiful selection of historical reproductions, relevant wares, and handcrafted items of the past such as wooden tableware, 100% natural cloth, artisan candies, soaps, and smoked cheeses, jewelry, leather goods and more.

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For the public who has only a small opportunity to experience this unique environment for themselves, it’s best to come hungry and with a tote bag for the purchase you are sure to make of unique goods. There are several choices on the menu from fry bread to homemade fudge to sarsaparilla served in a souvenir colored-glass bottle.

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Down to every detail, this year’s Alafia River Rendezvous brought great authenticity to an era long since passed. To learn more about the Rendezvous, visit www.floridafrontiersmen.org.

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