Though barbecues and fireworks have come to be Fourth of July staples, Blair County residents have another option to add to the day's events.
Fort Roberdeau's ties to the Revolutionary War create the perfect setting to commemorate the holiday and celebrate our nation's independence, Executive Director Peggy Goodman said.
"It's a way to kind of touch the past," she said. "It just seems like a natural place to want to go and think about how our nation started."
Mirror file photo
Fort Roberdeau’s traditional Fourth of July festivities include demonstrations of period equipment like this flintlock rifle demonstration by volunteer Nathan Kobuck last year.
The fort's traditional Fourth of July festivities will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, and include everything from 18th-century hearth cooking to a special musical wagon show. The celebrations continue later this month with the annual Revolutionary War Days weekend July 16 and 17.
But on July 4, admission to the fort will be free all day.
"We want to make it available to everybody on the most special day of the year," Goodman said.
What makes this year's event even more special, Goodman said, will be a reunion and performance from the Bicentennial Wagon Train troupe, which will begin at 3 p.m. in the upper level of the barn.
The show, written by former Penn State professor Bruce Trinkley, was performed across the country in the 1970s. Goodman said the music in the show is "wonderful," and is both humorous and patriotic.
Most of the staff that helps out with the fort's events are volunteers. Goodman said some are retired teachers or people who have knowledge about the time period, and they come back year after year for the opportunity to pass that knowledge along to future generations.
"I think it's gratifying for them to be able to shed a little light on how it was back then and how different it is today," Goodman said.
Robert Emerson, the Fort Roberdeau military coordinator, started working there the summer after his graduation from college and has now been lending a hand for more than 30 years.
"It was the best job I ever had," he said. "It was such a great experience, I decided to make a career out of it."
Revolutionary War Days, a weekend when re-enactment units from all over the area set up field camp at Fort Roberdeau.
Visitors can walk through the camps to see period clothing, cooking and craft artifacts, as well as partake in a variety of other activities.
The Revolutionary War Days have been an annual event since 1980, and Emerson said the re-enactors try to represent the Pennsylvania frontier as it was during the Revolution.
The weekend is loosely based on an event that happened in April of 1778, Emerson said.
A group of loyalists, who sided with the King of England during the Revolution, met secretly near Sinking Valley and decided to leave and meet up with an enclave of Iroquois warriors to help fight the rebels.
Though an attack on Fort Roberdeau never actually happened, a skirmish re-enactment will take place at 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
"We just give history a little twist," Goodman said.
What makes the Revolutionary War Days different from some other re-enactment events is the type of hands-on experience visitors can receive, Emerson said.
"At some larger events, you kind of sit on the sidelines and watch a battle that goes on 100 yards away," he said. "With this one, you can get up close and personal with re-enactors and really learn about the characters they're portraying."
Emerson added that Fort Roberdeau is unlike many other historical sites in that it is almost free of modern intrusions.
"You don't look out the gate of the fort and see a city ... the setting really allows you to step back in time and see yourself living on the Pennsylvania frontier."
Goodman said visiting a historic site and attending events like these can make for a nice social experience with family and friends. She added it's a different type of summer destination than an amusement park or a concert.
"It's a fun way to learn about history," she said. "Some people say they don't like history, but it's a story about people and what they did, and nothing is more engaging than people."
Staff writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.