- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

STURBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - A 17th-century Polish hussar sold two Cold War-era Soviet crates to a WWII U.S. Army private Saturday in Sturbridge at the 2017 New England Reenactors Fair.

“It’s the only place you can go and see a medieval knight standing beside a U.S. Army soldier from World War II and everything in between,” said Richard Eckert, 29, of Ware, the organizer of the two-day fair held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center over the past weekend.

Mr. Eckert said he first became a re-enactor in 2010 with a Revolutionary war re-enactment group in Connecticut. But he quickly found a problem.

“What I was finding is what is always difficult for re-enactors is getting the proper clothing and gear,” Mr. Eckert said.

So he said he organized a dozen vendors who sold period clothing and accessories in a fair in 2012. Now in its sixth year, the fair has grown to a weekend event with 42 vendors selling everything from Civil War era rifles to reproduction corsets; and early 19th-century tin-and-wood foot warmers to Vietnam-era brass buttons for uniforms. There are also lectures on topics from mid-19th-century bonnet making to the history of aprons from the 14th century to mid-20th century.

The attendees were similarly eclectic. World War II Army officers conversed with Civil War-era Southern belles. Redcoats fraternized with Continental Army soldiers. A Civil-War era camp band played spirituals and traditional music as a family in Elizabethan garb and a commander in a Roman legion perused booths.

“They’re not good on polished stone floors,” admitted Quinton Johansen, 64, of Plainville, Connecticut, of the reproduction spiked boots that were part of his circa 70 A.D. Roman outfit. “I have fallen; fortunately it was just a loss to dignity as there were no injuries.”

While attendees wore clothes from many different periods, all those interviewed expressed a deep love and passion for history.

“They’re not necessarily historians that write books, but are historians in the era that they portray,” said Caren Harrington, 54, of Palmer, a Civil-War reenactor and high school history teacher.

Redcoat Chris Pratt, 23, of Coventry, Rhode Island, said he was exposed to a completely different historical perspective as a private in His Majesty’s 54th Regiment of Foot out of Mansfield, Connecticut.

“To most people they’re just the bad guys; and I’ve learned they obviously didn’t view themselves as such,” Mr. Pratt said. “Coming over here to fight in the Revolution wasn’t anything personal, they were just doing their job.”

In addition to experiencing history through re-enactment, the fair gave attendees an opportunity to learn about history.

“For many people in re-enacting, their whole access to historical clothing for studying purposes is in a museum behind a sheet of glass,” said Henry Cooke, 59, a historical tailor who brought some of his historical men’s clothing to what he called a “show and tell” at the fair. “This provides an opportunity to see the real things … they get to go to the Museum of Henry and goggle at his wonderful toys.”

And this provides inspiration for re-enactors’ own creations (Ms. Harrington noted that reproductions are favored because historical clothing is so delicate and rare). There were bolts of fabric and ribbon for sale, reproduction shoes and hats, and all the materials and accessories necessary to outfit a weekend at a Civil-War campsite.

“We’re excited to be here to get ideas for our own event,” said Kyle O. von Kamp, an American history teacher in Willard, Ohio, who organizes a Revolutionary War reenactment and encampment for his entire 8th grade each year.

There were also those who came for the fellowship.

“It’s a chance to clean out the closet, de-rust the gear, trade-buy-sell, and meet up with my reenactment buddies - it’s kind of networking and hobnobbing” said Andy Volpe, 38, of Worcester, and a reenactor with a colonial militia in Salem and a Roman Legion. “It’s an addictive hobby.”

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Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com

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