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Hillsborough invites childlike curiosity through living history event

Revolutionary War reenactment as part of Twelfth Annual Revolutionary War Living History Day in Hillsborough Saturday 2-22-14. Reenactment of His Majesty's 64th regiment of foot during the year of 1781. Left- David Snyder is from Efland, reenacting a Captain of Infantry, been reenacting since 1976 and started because of the bicentennial. He has an interest in American history and wanted to learn more about the British side of the story. Here he speaks to a crowd about weapons, clothing, and strategies of war. Right- Ed Franz has been reenacting since 1995, when a friend encouraged him to "come out and play" in a historical period. He has loved learning about a time that he had previously been disinterested in.
Ed Franz and David Snyder stand side-by-side during a reenactment.

The smell of gunpowder and vegetable stew flowed through the air in downtown Hillsborough on Saturday. 

The front lawn of the Hillsborough Visitors Center was filled with American flags and booths with volunteers explaining colonial life, from how the settlers made mustard to their modes of dress.

This was all a part of Revolutionary War Living History Day, or “Rev War Day” for short, which spanned across town at the Visitors Center, the Orange County Historical Museum and the Burwell School Historic Site.

Events like pine needle basket making were also hosted at the Occaneechi Village Replica Site in River Park, constructed by members of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. 

Many of the volunteers were from Historical Interpretations, an organization that creates living history at schools and events for the general public. One of the volunteers was Duncan Bordeaux, who was stationed by the front of the Visitors Center in his 18th century regalia.

“I wear period clothes and as people come in, I greet them and tell them a little bit about what I’m doing and what I’m wearing, and what someone who is dressed as I am would be doing at this point in time,” he said.

Bordeaux was dressed almost completely in red, with a vest made from expensive Indian fabric and a hat adorned with several feathers. He said was wearing clothing that was typical of a sailor at the time who had gained wealth by migrating to North America.

Amanda Boyd, the executive director of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, said partnering with organizations like Historical Interpretations is important in the alliance's mission of promoting and preserving Hillsborough's heritage.

Bordeaux said that he and the other volunteers participate in educating the public on historical events that relate to the area. For Revolutionary War Living History Day specifically, he said they came to celebrate the city's extensive involvement in American independence. 

Writer Suzanne Adair sat on the front porch of the Visitors Center alongside her historical crime novels. She said she used to be a reenactor with her sons, one of which was on the back lawn performing a battle reenactment between the British Army and the American Militia. 

During her childhood in Florida, Adair said that people around her seemed to forget the state’s involvement in the Revolution. One of the books in her "Mysteries of the American Revolution" series partly deals with Florida's colonial history. 

She has now written numerous novels, with her most recent series taking place during Wilmington’s occupation by the 82nd regiment of the British army in 1781, featuring Michael Stoddard, a minor character in her earlier novels. 

“The Michael Stoddard series is actually a huge cautionary tale about what happens when we don't keep our vigilance when we fight among each other, and we're not paying attention,” she said.

Adair said she had been at “Rev War Day” many times and she always enjoyed it. The event brings out people's childlike curiosity, Boyd said, making it a unique experience that draws people in, year after year.

“You'll see tons of families out here — young kids, they love to do it, especially the firing demonstrations and when you see anybody in a red coat or any type of regalia, you're just like ‘what is going on?’ and you get more curious,” she said

The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough helps with the back end of many different events and assists in different aspects of local organizations, Boyd said. Through working with Visit Hillsborough, she said the Alliance gets to “be the megaphone for how awesome our town really is.”

She said that “Rev War Day” is one of the yearly highlights for the Hillsborough community.

“Being able to really say that this is a community-wide, free event for people is really important for us to make information and public history — and the fun parts of public history — accessible to everyone in a unique way,” Boyd said.

@aliceaharris27

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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