This weekend’s historic celebration at Fort Atkinson begins early for hundreds of northeast Iowa schoolkids. Spokesman Ron Franzen says they’re coming on a big field trip but Iowans will also head to the old fort for the annual rendezvous and re-creation of its history. The fort was first built after troops moved the Winnebago Indians from Wisconsin to Iowa, an outpost to keep them here but also to protect them from a couple other tribes Franzen says they didn’t get along with. The fort in Winneshiek County was in use from 1840 to 1949…and more than a century and-a-half later, is still a landmark. Franzen says there’s a part of one old barracks still standing from that era, which today is a museum. There also old cannon houses and a powder-house, always under renovation to keep them preserved, and he says you can see the outline of where other old buildings used to be. The 29th Fort Atkinson Rendezvous will feature “re-enactors” who dress up as characters from of an older time though Franzen says they won’t be stereotypes. He laughs that you won’t see “cowboys and Indians,” but some show off period crafts, like the Waterloo blacksmith who works in an old-style forge making things out of iron. Others will bring cannons they maintain and operate and will show off pottery, weaving and other crafts. One feature added in recent years is an invitation to schools to bring students the day before the public rendezvous begins. This year he knows for sure 1200 area schoolkids will come today (Friday) during the midday. He says “It’s just basically a living classroom for them.” The only thing Franzen says won’t be as good as usual is the show of fall colors, muted because of the region’s drought this year. He says visitors can also take in the clock museum in Spillville and Norwegian-American museum in Decorah while they’re in the region.
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