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Frontier military weapons.

Trails Center volunteer and reenactor Bruce Berst presented a program on frontier military weapons.

Traditional game of marbles.

BLM employee Jo Foster taught children the traditional game of marbles.

Frontier scout.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site employee and Trails Center Volunteer Laurie Vanous portrayed a frontier scout.

National Historic Trails Interpretive Center "Brought History to Life" with a Reenactment of Frontier History

Children laughed as they played traditional pioneer games. Nearby, a Pony Express rider galloped through the sage. The smell of fried chicken, cooked in traditional Dutch ovens, permeated the air.

This scene could have easily taken place during the early 1860s in frontier Wyoming. However, the above demonstrations took place at Wyoming Heritage Days, a reenactment that occurred at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, Wyo., on August 7-8, 2010.

Forty reenactors and volunteers helped create the pioneer camp, and approximately 700 visitors participated.

"This reenactment brought history to life," said Trails Center interpreter and coordinator Alex Rose. "It's one thing to learn about history from a book. But it's quite another to see reenactors and living historians provide educational, engaging, and entertaining demonstrations. This family-friendly event offered a fun way to learn about history."

The reenactment was a success due to the enthusiasm of the reenactors and volunteers. The Living Historians of Frontier Wyoming, based in Buffalo, Wyo., participated, along with reenactors from throughout the state.

The Living History Team of the Natrona County High School ROTC provided artillery demonstrations with a 1841 replica Mountain Howitzer. Members of the National Pony Express Association (NPEA) interpreted the Pony Express. An employee of Fort Laramie National Historic Site volunteered as a frontier scout.

During the event, frontier army reenactors performed drills and discussed the hardship and rigors of frontier military life. Other demonstrations included the following: pioneer life, children's games, plenty of Dutch oven cooking, frontier medicine, traditional laundry and even a whiskey tent.

The reenactment included tents for pioneers and infantrymen, and a restored 1866 military escort wagon originally used at Fort Fetterman, a remote army fort that helped protect emigrants along the Bozeman Trail. "The wagon gave visitors the opportunity to touch history," Rose said.

An outdoor amphitheater, designed for interpretive programs, was created from hay bales, which provided seating for visitors. During one program, a reenactor portraying a frontier snake oil salesmen attempted to "sell" his miraculous tonics and medicine.

On Saturday evening, living historians recreated a pioneer wedding. Local volunteers reenacted a wedding between a young woman on the California Trail to a soldier at Fort Caspar. "We were literally uniting Wyoming’s pioneer and frontier military history with this demonstration, and recreating one of the most powerful events in a person’s life: a wedding," Rose said. "The demonstration helped forge a strong emotional connection with our visitors."

Following the wedding, approximately 110 visitors and reenactors enjoyed wedding cake, which was baked on-site in Dutch ovens. For the celebration, musicians played pioneer music, while visitors learned traditional dances, including the Virginia Reel.

Wyoming Heritage Days is scheduled to take place next year, August 12-13, 2011.

Last updated: 12-22-2010