Old Fort Niagara is preparing for its annual "Soldiers of the Revolution" re-enactment during the weekend of Aug. 1-2. The event will include a colors ceremony, period music, 18th century games, kids recruitment activities and 2 p.m. battle re-enactments. "Soldiers of the Revolution" will highlight the American Revolution on the New York Frontier and involves re-enactors from the region.
'Soldiers of the Revolution'
During the upcoming re-enactment, activities will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m. The 2 p.m. battles will occur behind the visitor 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., kids of all ages can enlist as rebels or loyalists and fight a mock battle using wooden muskets.
The full schedule is as follows:
The Officers Club, just outside the fort's footprint, will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during "Soldiers of the Revolution" for tours and access to the World War II display.
In addition, the fort's staff and volunteers are gearing up for summer programs and activities with the public going on now 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. They 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. The truth is that it's far from quiet," said Robert Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara. "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!"
The summer program dramatically portrays the lives of Fort Niagara's 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's program also features women's roles at the fort during its history. 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 will be as follows: War of 1812 (July 17, 29 and Aug. 11); French and Indian War (July 21, Aug. 3 and 17); and Revolutionary War (July 25 and 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 is also open daily from noon to 3 p.m. through Oct. 12.
Additionally, guests can witness:
Onsite Trades Demonstrations - Enhancing the visitor's experience at Old Fort Niagara 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 and blacksmiths as they work in their various shops.
Carpentry and Joinery: These workers were necessary for constructing and maintaining the 18th century buildings. A carpenter does the major framework of a building, although, occasionally, joiners may have been present at Fort Niagara. These woodworkers are what would people today call "finish carpenters." They were responsible for doors, windows and trim in higher-end residences. Fort interpreters who portray woodworkers have built some of the furniture items on display at the site.
Coopering: With supplies constantly passing through Niagara, coopers, or barrel-makers, were also a very important part of Niagara's garrison, and records show that they were present during both the French and British occupations. Much of their work involved repairing barrels, but also making new ones for things produced locally. This is a new program for 2015.
Blacksmithing: Blacksmiths also were necessary for the support of the garrison. Like carpenters, they were responsible for repairs around the garrison and, using hammer, anvil and brute force, they created the hardware needed by the carpenters when assembling buildings. One of the Niagara blacksmiths was listed as an armorer, as well, suggesting he was capable of doing work on firearms, too.
Native Programs - Old Fort Niagara's history has always involved relationships with Native Americans. The fort employs an onsite 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 visitor center.
Food and Souvenirs - 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 visitor center sells gifts, books, apparel and souvenirs throughout the year. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Old Fort Niagara is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily in the summer, with admissions ending at 6:30 p.m. Admission to the fort is $12 per adult, $8 per child (ages 6-12) and free for children ages 5 and under. Members of Old Fort Niagara are admitted free. Group discounts are available. Visit website www.oldfortniagara.org for details.
Old Fort Niagara is located in Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown. It is a registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association (a not-for-profit organization) in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.