October 6, 2014

What Reenactors Wish Event Hosts Knew

Reenactments are huge affairs. Some have thousands of participates, tens of thousands of spectators and take years to plan. We know it's not easy and we are grateful for what you do. There are a lot of things that happen at events that just get lost between the participants and the people in charge. I've put together some of my ideas and had gracious contributions from reenactors on facebook.

150th Manasas Trash after Reenactment

What Reenactors Wish Event Hosts Knew...

-Sometimes things come up. It would be nice to be able to transfer those preregister fees we paid to other reenactors. If we knew we could transfer these, everyone would preregister, benefiting everyone.

-Things like "realistic scenarios" mean nothing to reenactors who never take the field. If you want soldiers to show up, make their families happy. Do you know what makes everyone happy? Things like "Civilian Ice Cream Social." :) Sutlers and a ball just don't do it anymore.      

-We really do appreciate having other things for reenactors to do like special lectures, demonstrations, and museum displays. Reenactors love learning something new, sometimes research gets stagnant. It's really great to have things like this for reenactors. Reenactors spend a lot of time reenacting, they don't always get to see things like this when they are away from home.  I'm going to admit, I even get a little excited if there is a packet with articles about the battle we are reenacting and such.

-It would be really helpful to have a suggestions box after events (or suggestion email.) Sometimes easy complaints never get fixed just because organizers don't ever hear there was a problem. We realize you can't fix everything. 

-To a lot of reenactors those medallions/lapel pins can mean the difference between them coming to an event and not. I didn't think that this was the case until I heard people excitedly tell me about the medallions they would be adding to their collection at the big 150th events. In any case, a cheap memento from the event is a nice gesture.

Civil War Reenactors at Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation 2014

Wonderful Contributions:

Maggie Reese Was talking with a guy at Iuka a couple of weeks ago, he said he wished they would take the golf carts away from the staff. If they had to walk everywhere like the reenactors, they would lay things out better. He has a point for smaller events but for larger ones I don't know how it could be done. However, golf carts just ruin the atmosphere so I kind of agree with that.

Ken Giorlando I agree with Maggie Reese - take the golf carts away. Also, military: when you die, stay dead. Don't sit up on your elbows and watch the rest of the battle. You are seen by hundred+ spectators. Battle commentators: please stop with 'resurrecting" the dead after a battle scenario. I'd rather show the spectators some of the sad parts of the war like civilians heading onto the battle scene after the battle has ended to help the wounded.

Visit Ken at: http://passionforthepast.blogspot.com/

Thomas Weaverling In my opinion, a lot of events don't treat the reenactors well at all. We pay outrageious prices on everything. I understand the event needs to make money but a lot of reenactors can't afford to pay $10 for a bag of ice right after they just spent over $100 for gas to get there. A good way to win a reenactors heart and respect is to have a free meal on Saturday night. Doesn't have to be fancy. Just show soe appreciation. That's all we ask for is appreciation and kindness. But most events don't show it.

Mic O'Halloran At some events in Ohio the organizers included a touch of entertainment rarely seen at events, they included a group of travelling theatre players who had been abandoned by their Manager and had to sing for their supper. Reenactors and members of the public were asked to write letters to the soldiers which were then handed out at two different events. The civilians were included and involved in a small towns fortunes of battle as the town was captured and then freed. One grim reality often overlooked, at times the battlefield had dead from both sides mixed together. Imagine the effect on the public as the "bodies" are sorted and stacked in lines as they were in the day. And if anyone request info on the travelling theatre they can PM me.

D. H. Separate camping area for civilians

Lela Rast Hartsaw
Bathrooms. Bathrooms. Bathrooms.

Activities that engage children. Special areas where children can look, touch, feel, taste and ask questions. I love the idea of a booklet or take-away info sheets for kids. Kids love to try on uniforms and strap on cartridge boxes, etc. Wrap a young lady in a corset! They will never forget the experience.

Ice. Ice. Ice. (We reenact in Florida.)

I have often thought that a "docent-lead tour" through camp would be super cool. People wander through and some reenactors are engaging and informative and others are just rude. To have someone assigned to leading people through camp and explain what they're seeing would be beneficial, educational and fun.

Petenlinda Hepworth First I think this is a great idea!! Here is my issue. I live in Iowa and have some events here. We also travel into other states. My biggest gripe is advertising!! 9 years ago we came upon a banner on an exit ramp in Kansas. ( I mean banner ) without seeing that we never would have become involved in cw. But…Since then I have not seen banners or signs of any kind. We pull artillery pieces to events, kinda of noticeable lol. We will stop at a gas station 3 miles from the event. People ohh and ahh over the guns and ask.. So, where you headed? 3 miles away at the main park? Oh, never heard anything... This is a sad event at every place we go. I hear event coordinators complain on lack of spectators. Well, if they don't know we are in town, what do you expect??? They will say it’s in the paper. I don't personally know anyone who actually reads the paper anymore. Everything has become electronic. Events need to figure out how to get the word out!! Billboard, corner signs, the people who donate money and time can place a banner out front of business, Craigslist, local news community board etc. And I have asked about these options and they say no. Didn't think of it, no one wanted to make signs etc. I know Boscobel WI event uses a billboard, and an event this summer in MO used a blinking road work sign.

G. B. C. Another easy way to advertise is right here [facebook.] Create an event and share share share.
Bathrooms. Handicapped ones that are cleaned!

Brett Pomeroy Stop trying to reenact marjor battles with 50 to 100 reenactors. Create a small scenario. Maybe a depot robbery or something of the sort. I went to an event in mason city that they tried to do all of vicksburg at the same time. It was confusing for everyone.

A. O. Plan your areas better, quit with the preferential treatment, and actually feed us even just once. What do I mean? 1) I've been to some pretty big events where it was literally a hike to get to the wood and water drops. And any veteran reenactor will tell you that a camp area with portapotties close will make us break out into happy dances. 2) I'm attending an event this weekend where we are being stuck in a bog because no one wants to get their feet wet. Again at some larger events I've never made it even up to the sutlers because they're a half mile away and scheduled battles didn't give time. Before I go on, yes I'm Confederate and we get the short end of the stick -a lot-. I've heard more than once, "they don't mind, they're Confederates". Sorry, but we do mind. 3) My unit has a simple saying, " Keep history alive, feed a reenactor. " If you feed us, we will come. But actual food, not something we could pull out of our coolers. Once, the "meal" provided was a lukewarm hotdog and chips. We haven't been back to that event.

K. M. I'm approaching this from two sides both as the secretary of a club and specialized sutler (tin-type photographer) one problem I’ve seen is multiple events throughout a weekend stacked too close together, hosting a high-tea or dance between skirmishes or meals wherein you have little time to eat and prepare for the skirmish – the other issue I’ve seen, more as a sutler is lack of communication between the event coordinators, then not really providing the time for participants to shop or get their tin-types done. Having done living history, you live in a period fashion, there’s time to prepare and cook your food events and task are divided and spread out sometimes public is involved, with that time being used to do your daily task but also explain to the public, living history – re-enactors are more like actors, who need to have time to get dressed clean themselves, eat and sight-see or shop

I'll see if I can incorporate some of the ideas, and yes I feel that re-enactors are often poorly treated, I'm slowly working on ways to improve that within my club, with simple things like a free meal or a stipends for working at a school day event.. sadly a lot of clubs demand a lot from the members with little to no physical return for the members.. this ends up leaving a core group of people who do all of the work, and as result it burns people out.. growing up I was heavily involved in craft fairs and living history - the club I belonged to generally attempted to involve everyone, it was hard work - but we were a family, we ate together etc... Today it's more like each to their own.

Sharon Van Nest Communication. Event organizers need to be vigilant about conveying current year info for repeated events. Contact info that is both current and inquiries responded to in a reasonable time frame. We have two west coast events in which not on response ever happened. We gave up and did not attend one, and now the Moorpark event looks to be a miss as well. I can only assume after months of trying to garner basic info they either do not care or are lazy. Either way if you cannot manage an event get someone who will.

Thanks for everyone who helped me write this post! Please forward this to anyone who might have some good ideas or find it useful. 

Have something to add? Please comment!


  1. Interesting post! I hope someone sends this to the leaders of the bigger events. Ice ice ice. :D

  2. I really really strongly agree about the preferential treatment in regards to the event layout. At the 150th Cedar Creek that I went to, it was a 20 minute walk, one way, uphill to get to "civilization" (ie, the battlefield, the sutlers and tourist food, the living history area) from where the Confederate Cavalry was camped. The Confederates are generally tucked far away from everything, but the Cav ESPECIALLY. This kind of thing is something that I've experienced with every reenactment I've been to where I was with my unit. The 151st Gettysburg Confederate Cav location had the extra bonus of being tick and chigger infested. Having severely itchy chigger bites all over my body for 6 weeks after the event really didn't make me want to go to a reenactment at that site ever again.

  3. I agree! With some strategic planning, events can make sure people are within a reasonable distance of what they need. I once went to an event where our tent location was practically in a spot of brush with spiders the size of your fist. Thanks for commenting!


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