Visitors were taken back in time to the 18th century at the 35th annual Island Rendezvous at the Isle a la Cache Museum and Preserve in Romeoville on Saturday.
The event right on the grounds of the museum is meant to show visitors what it was like during the time of the French fur trade with Native Americans. Volunteers came, many in traditional clothes of the time period, to show what like was like back then with everything from blacksmithing to fishing.
The workers at Isle a la Cache like to integrate the Forest Preserve’s mission to teach the community about nature with historical retellings, artifacts and displays. For Island Rendezvous, the organizers wanted to make it more interactive with visitors able to participate in activities such as archery and lacrosse.
“About three or four years ago, we reinvented the event to focus more on bringing the past and the future together,” said Lynn Kurczewski, the director of visitor services. “So you see a lot more hands-on activities.”
But the event still had plenty of history with re-enactors portraying French fur traders and teaching the attendees, especially the kids, about their field of expertise. Each re-enactor has a particular skill they bring to the event.
Suzanne Keldsen, Dot Pakan and Marti Pizzini were all re-enactors who made their way to Romeoville from Indiana. They all portray poor French wives who would have traveled to Quebec and were left home by the voyageurs and play instruments from the time period such as the fiddle and the hurdy gurdy.
“We go around and play music for folks and tell a little about the voyageurs and all the goods that they carried and how the music that we do is the type of music that actually keep them in rhythm as they were paddling so they could actually go faster,” Pakan said.
For the re-enactors and employees at Isle a la Cache, events like Island Rendezvous are just another example of them fulfilling a mission to educate the public about the history of the land they live on.
“The fur trade era in this area, a lot of people don’t know about it,” Kurczewski said. “And so to be able to educate people about that and what was going on right here. ... I think when they can connect where they live with the history going back 200 or 300 years ago, they really find that interesting and then they want to come back and learn more.”