Traders lay out their blankets in front of tipis and tents while a pot of beans bubble in the coals of a small fire, French Marines and red-coated British soldiers walk by talking quietly, somewhere a cannon booms, all while a chill November breeze blows across the fortress walls from the Mississippi River.
The Winter Rendezvous (November 6-7, 2010) in and around the reconstructed Fort de Chartres near the French-settled Prairie du Rocher in Southern Illinois is when hardy reenacters show up to enjoy themselves before winter closes its arctic grip.
It seems an unreasonable time of year to hold a rendezvous, but it is actually considered a reward to reenacters who are so busy throughout the year with various special events, not the least of which is the huge summer rendezvous.
It’s also a good thing for visitors.
The rendezvous is a public event. Because of the chill, however, you’ll find the early winter rendezvous a more intimate gathering, providing most of the usual features of the summer rendezvous, with smaller crowds and a more relaxed air.
Special events include a competitive “Woods Walk” flintlock muzzle-loading shoot which is not open to the public.
Covers 1700-1820 Era
The rendezvous features reenacters represents the 1700-1820 timeframe when the fort was at it’s height, including the period when it was the civil and military headquarters for the French colony in the middle Mississippi River Valley. The occasional Jesuit priest whose brothers initially explored the area in the wake of Pere Marquette, French Marines not sea soldiers, but colonial regulars of the French Department of Marine), redcoats of the post-French era, blue-coated American soldiers for the era that followed George Rogers Clark’s incredible bloodless conquest of Illinois territories from the British during the Revolutionary War, as well as the buckskinners who trapped and traded the Midwest and gathered traded their pelts at rendezvous, and, of course, Native Americans who originally lived in the area.
The fort itself is kid’s delight, a reconstruction that mimics the third fort built on the site, the other two gnawed away by the Mississippi River. The view of the front wall facing the highway is impressive with it’s main gate and the guard tower over the gate. Inside, the courtyard lacks side walls but has a couple of large incomplete buildings where construction techniques are easily visible. The rear wall consist of a line of connected buildings which include barracks, chapel, museum, and administrative offices.
In front of the fort, dozens and dozens of tents and tipis are set up. Many reenacters sleep over through the weekend in their shelters.
Admission to the Fort de Chartres Winter Rendezvous November 6th and 7th of 2010 is free. There’s plenty of free parking. The fort is located near Prairie du Rocher, which is huddled beneath the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi in Randolph County.