Living History Fair

Scott McCollough, of Montezuma, Iowa, with the First South Carolina Infantry, plays the banjo outside his tent during the History Center of Olmsted County’s Living History Fair Saturday, July 15, 2017, in Rochester. Civil War battle reenactments, a Civil War encampment, Civil War medical demonstrations and a vintage baseball game could all be seen at the Living HIstory Fair over the weekend.

Explore the past at the History Center of Olmsted County’s Living History Fair. With something for every member of the family, the fair offers an interactive look at the Civil War.

“The majority of the fair focuses on the Civil War, but it covers the 1840s to 1890s,” said Aaron Saterdalen, the history center’s education and programs coordinator and event organizer. “You’ll be able to immerse yourself in history, go back 150-plus years. You’ll learn the history, but you’ll also see it in action.”

Throughout the day, fairgoers will see Civil War-era tradespeople making their wares (blacksmith, tinsmith, ropemaker), watch vintage base ball games (featuring the History Center’s Roosters team), and step inside the 1860s William Dee cabin and 1880’s Hadley Valley School.

“There are a variety of hands-on activities. You can make a rope, tie a broom, and try your hand at a variety of hand powered tools,” said Saterdalen. “It’s an education — a hands-on education.”

Families will also be able to watch and interact with Civil War reenactors. The 80 to 100 living historians are members of Civil War Reenactment Societies representing actual Civil War units, including: 24th Iowa Volunteer Regiment, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, 3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Minnesota Light Artillery–Battery I, 6th Wisconsin Light Artillery, and Scott’s Tennessee Light Artillery.

“Battle reenactments, medical demonstrations, Civil War firearms,” said Saterdalen, a Civil War reenactor who serves as a corporal in the 3rd Minnesota company. “This is a great opportunity to interact with soldiers and civilians, and reenactors in period dress interpreting the 1860s timeframe.”

And if you like what you see, plan to stick around for Saturday evening’s Candlelight Tour (8:30 p.m.). Open to the first 100 participants, the tour offers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the nightlife 150 years ago.

“The period-era tents are not just for show. They are for sleeping in, too. Typically camp is closed at night to outsiders. So this is a real treat,” said Saterdalen. “There will be five or six stations where you can watch and listen. You’ll see union soldiers sitting around a campfire, civilian women talking about the war and the home front, and a candlelight battlefield surgery.”

Admission is $10 per day. Two-day wristbands are available, until July 19, for $15. Admission for children 12 and younger is free. Admission includes entry to the museum. Concessions available for purchase.

Lindy Lange is a licensed school social worker. Family Time appears every Wednesday. Up next: Food, fun and farm animals can be found at the family-friendly Olmsted Country Free Fair.

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