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News: Viking Re-Enactors

History lesson spans the centuries
Event looks at war in 1000 A.D., 1813


Source: Toledo Blade
Article published Sunday, April 27, 2008


[Picture: Deryck Brown, 38, of Toronto, center, leads Nathan Rogers, 5, of Perrysburg, at left, and Tyler Wolfram, 11, in a Viking-style charge across the field at Fort Meigs. Lynn Bristol of Cleveland, foreground, places a baking tin of cookies into an oven at Fort Meigs. The event provides a look at how cultures of two eras sustained their war efforts. ]

By KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER


Vikings came to Perrysburg yesterday, the women grinding wheat into flour with large stones while the screaming men battled with flailing axes and shields.

But just around the corner were men clad in War of 1812-era military uniforms, accompanied by tents, drummers, and muskets.

The time-warp contrast was part of War on the Home Front: 1000 A.D. vs. 1813, a two-day event at Fort Meigs.

During the event, which continues today, visitors see Viking re-enactors and an encampment, complete with a boat, along with the War of 1812 exhibits as well.

"We're trying to allow people to compare and contrast," explained Rick Finch, site manager for Fort Meigs, a War of 1812 battlefield with a museum and reconstructed fort.

The emphasis is less on the fighting that occurred in the two eras, but more on how both cultures sustained their war effort, he said.

For instance, in the War of 1812 era, blacksmiths were enlisted to aid the military.

In Viking times, "you need men who will repair the shields when they get broken, who will repair the helmets, you need women who bake the food and who make sure everyone has enough to eat," Mr. Finch said.

[Picture: Lynn Bristol of Cleveland, foreground, places a baking tin of cookies into an oven at Fort Meigs. The event provides a look at how cultures of two eras sustained their war efforts. ]

Along those lines, the encampments feature re-enactors and displays to explain to visitors how people cooked, did laundry, and fixed their weapons in both time periods.

Tauny Piland of Indianapolis, portraying a Viking woman, showed visitors quern-stones used to grind wheat into flour and make bread. She said she enjoys answering questions and correcting misconceptions bred by films about that period.

"[Vikings] weren't the barbarians people thought they were," she said.

Two visitors she spoke with were Ron Charney and his son Daniel, 12, of Sylvania.

Daniel said he learned how the Vikings sailed to conquer other peoples, saw how they made flour, and watched a Viking game.

"We actually came for the battle, but we are learning all kinds of other stuff," Ron Charney said.

This is the first time the fort has hosted an event comparing the two eras specifically, Mr. Finch said. It sprang from the annual Muster on the Maumee, which hosts hundreds of re-enactors portraying soldiers over 10 centuries, from the Vikings to the Vietnam War.

Martin Land, president of the Old Northwest Military History Association, whose volunteers portray people from the War of 1812, said he is surprised by the many similarities between the early 19th century and the Viking era.

Women's clothing had the same characteristics, people ate comparable foods, and military formations used by both groups were remarkably similar, though the weapons were very different.

Having volunteered as a historical interpreter for more than a decade, he said he enjoys explaining to visitors the lifestyle, technologies, and terminology of the past.

"It's more than just the dry facts of history," he said. "It's the feel of things."

The events continue today from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. with 1812-era activities, Viking village tours, artillery, and combat demonstrations.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:
kgiammarise@theblade.com
or 419-724-6133.

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