YOUNGSTOWN – Old Fort Niagara is preparing for its annual “Soldiers of the Revolution” re-enactment Saturday and next Sunday,which will include a colors ceremony, period music, 18th-century games, kids recruitment activities and battle re-enactments at 2 p.m. each day.
The event will highlight the American Revolution on the New York Frontier and involves re-enactors from the region.
In addition, the fort’s summer programs and activities continue through the end of August. Thanks to grants from the John R. Oishei Foundation and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation over the past six years, the fort employs more historic interpreters than ever before who help visitors better understand the fort’s history and interpret the buildings, clothing, weapons, food, tools, games and other things from specific time periods.
“Old Fort Niagara appears to sit quietly and at the end of a winding road in Fort Niagara State Park,” said Robert Emerson, the fort’s executive director. “The truth is that it’s far from quiet. Muskets fire hourly, cannons blast daily, fifes trill and drums beat, blacksmiths hammer, fires crackle and spark, flags flap, and visitors clamber up staircases and shout to others to come see what they see.
“When’s the last time you were here?” he asked. “If it hasn’t been since a fourth-grade field trip, it’s time to come back and immerse yourself in living history!”
Activities run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day for the Soldiers of the Revolution event. The daily 2 p.m. battles will be staged behind the visitors center, where prisoners will be seized and marched into the fort, and visitors will be encouraged to follow the procession. At 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, kids of all ages can enlist as rebels or loyalists and fight a mock battle using wooden muskets.
The full schedule includes: 10 a.m. – Formation and Colors Ceremony; 10:15 a.m. – manual exercise; 10:30 a.m. – special tour of the fort in the American Revolution; 11:30 a.m. – recruiting children; noon – artillery firing demonstration; 1 p.m. – music; 1:30 p.m. – garrison review and firings; 2 p.m. – battle re-enactment; 2:30 p.m. – prisoner ransom; 3 p.m. – recruiting kids; 3:30 p.m. – 18th-century games; 4, 5 and 6 p.m. – musket-firing demonstrations.
In addition, the Officer’s Club, just outside the fort’s footprint, will be open during this event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for tours and access to the World War II display.
While the fort stages special events throughout the year, it is also open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily in summer, dramatically portraying the lives of its garrisons from the first explorers through the Civil War. Visitors can wander the fort’s grounds and meet and interact with French, British and American soldiers, witness musket and artillery firings, play a period game and take part in an 18th-century military drill. The summer program also features women’s roles at the fort during its history, where visitors can meet laundresses, cooks, gardeners and seamstresses.
Every fourth day is “muster day,” when visitors experience what life at the fort was like during a single time period: the French and Indian War, American Revolution, or War of 1812. This rotation allows visitors to come repeatedly and experience something different. The summer’s muster days are as follows: War of 1812 (Wednesday and Aug. 11); French and Indian War (Aug. 3 and 17); and Revolutionary War (Aug. 7).
In addition, the fort’s daily programming includes hourly guided tours, a museum that features the original flag that flew over the fort in 1812, an orientation video and interactive exhibits. Musket demonstrations are given year-round. The lighthouse also is open daily from noon to 3 p.m. through Oct. 12.
Enhancing the visitor’s experience is a growing representation of the trades that were needed to support the fort’s 18th- and early 19th-century garrisons. Guests can watch and ask questions of the skilled tradesmen who are carpenters, coopers (barrel-makers) and blacksmiths as they work in their various shops.
And, Old Fort Niagara’s history has always involved relationships with Native Americans. The fort employs an on-site Native educator, a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, whose role is to share the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) history at the fort. Programs include learning about trading, clothing, food and its preparation, games, crafts, weapons and tools. Native staff will soon be carving out a canoe from a cottonwood tree, which visitors can watch evolve over the summer from the back of the visitors center.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, an indoor concession area serves hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, wraps, bagged snacks, bottled water, soft drinks, hot chocolate, coffee, shakes, floats and ice cream in the Trading Post within the fort. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The museum shop, located inside the visitors center, sells gifts, books, apparel and souvenirs throughout the year. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The fort’s next special event will be the War of 1812 Encampment, set for Sept. 5-6; followed by the Haunted Fortress event Oct. 17 and 24; French Heritage Day, Nov. 6; and Castle by Candlelight, Dec. 5 and 12.
Admission to the fort is $12 for adults, $8 for children (ages 6-12) and free for children 5 and under. Members of Old Fort Niagara are admitted free. Group discounts are available.
For more information, visit oldfortniagara.org.