- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

ALBANY, N.Y. — A party of four wearing buckskin, bonnets and tricorn hats might turn heads at most restaurants, but at the Wagon Wheel in Ticonderoga, it just means something’s going on at Fort Ticonderoga.

“It’s very nice to see that,” restaurant owner Ray Thatcher says. “It brings the history of our community to life.”

Communities upstate and elsewhere can expect scenes like that over the next several years at commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War, which was fought between France and Britain for control of North America.

Events featuring 18th-century military encampments and battle re-enactments are scheduled at various state, national and local historic sites from western New York to the eastern Adirondacks through 2010.

This spring and summer, events will take place at French and Indian War-era forts and other locations in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in addition to upstate New York.

Some of the larger events typically involve as many as 1,000 re-enactors and can draw thousands of spectators. With the added publicity the war’s 250th anniversary has generated, officials are expecting even bigger crowds over the next four years.

“The visibility of anniversaries raises the public’s awareness and brings people to the site,” says Robert Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara, a New York State Historic Site located where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. “Once they get to the site, we can teach them history.”

During last year’s Grand Encampment of the French and Indian War, an annual three-day event at Old Fort Niagara, a near-record 9,500 visitors passed through the gates, Mr. Emerson says.

An estimate of the overall economic impact of living-history events isn’t readily available, but it’s clear that people playing 18th-century solider can generate big bucks for the host community. According to the Empire State Development Corp., last September’s re-enactment of the 1755 Battle of Lake George attracted about 15,000 people who spent more than $1 million over two days, giving the Adirondack village a post-Labor Day economic boost.

“It’s a tremendous economic engine, not only for the hometowns where the events are happening, but for the region,” says Nicholas Westbrook, executive director of Fort Ticonderoga.

The fort, perched on a bluff between the northern end of Lake George and the southern end of Lake Champlain, was a key French stronghold during the war, which began in Pennsylvania in 1754 and ended in Canada in 1760.

Between those years, upstate New York provided the ground for some of the war’s bloodiest fighting, from European-style sieges and set-piece battles to forest skirmishes and frontier raids.

“This was America’s first world war, and it unfolded right here in our back yard of New York state,” Mr. Westbrook said at a March press briefing kicking off the state’s official 250th anniversary commemoration.

Another national historic site in upstate New York is Fort Johnson, where in 1755, William Johnson and 250 Indians set out to fight the Battle of Lake George. A commemoration of the battle was held at Lake George last year; it was the first in a series of signature events marking the war’s anniversary.

Other major events will take place Aug. 11 through 13 in Oswego, in Lake George in 2007, Fort Ticonderoga in 2008, Old Fort Niagara in 2009, and Ogdensburg in 2010.

Randy Patten, a state police investigator from the Schenectady area, has been a re-enactor for nearly a decade. He says he is often stopped on the street of a host community while dressed in the uniform of a 1750s British redcoat, mostly by the curious, but also by business owners.

“The store owners are very appreciative that we come out,” says Mr. Patten, who attends as many as eight events a year. “It’s all positive. People are very receptive to all of us.”

• • •

French and Indian War: visit www.frenchandindianwar250.org or call 412/392-2408. The Web site lists events around the country. Click on Visit, then Interactive Map for information about places related to the war in 23 states, from Maine to as far west as Wisconsin and as far south as Alabama.

Spring and summer events:

May 13 and 14: Fort Massac State Park, Metropolis, Ill., annual French and Indian War Re-enactment; 618/524-4712. (The fort’s biggest event, an annual encampment that attracts more than 100,000 people, is scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22.)

May 15 through Nov. 1: Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, “Clash of Empires,” a traveling exhibit from the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, will be on display; www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/cwme.asp or 819/776-8600.

May 26 through 28, Fort Frederick State Park, Big Pool, Md., 250th anniversary event; www.friendsoffortfrederick.org or 301/842-2155.

June 17 and 18: Stony Creek Metro Park, Shelby Township, Mich., “War in the Wilderness” French and Indian War re-enactment.

June 17 and 18, Custaloga Town Scout Reservation, near Carlton, Pa., French and Indian War encampment; www.paladincom.com/custaloga.shtml.

June 24 and 25, Fort Ticonderoga National Historic Landmark, Ticonderoga, N.Y., Grand Encampment of the French and Indian War; www.fort-ticonderoga.org or 518/585-2821.

July 1 through 3, Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, N.Y., French and Indian War Encampment, www.oldfortniagara.org or 716/745-7611.

July 15 and 16, Bourbannais, Ill., Gathering on the Theatiki; www.theatiki.org.

July 22 and 23, Ogdensburg, N.Y., Founder’s Day celebration for Fort de la Presentation; www.fortlapresentation.net.

Aug. 5 and 6, The Fort at No. 4 Living History Museum, Charlestown, N.H., 250th French and Indian War Commemoration; www.fortat4.com or 603/826-5700.

Aug. 5 and 6, Fort Loudoun, Vonore, Tenn., Oconostota’s Victory Commemoration; www.fortloudoun.com or 423/884-6217.

Aug. 11 through 13, Old Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego, N.Y., commemoration of the founding of Fort Ontario; www.fortontario.com or 315/343-4711.

Aug. 26, Crown Point State Historic Site, Crown Point, N.Y., Seven Years War Encampment; 518/597-4666.

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