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Annual event takes re-enacting Civil War seriously

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Dawn Aulet for Shaw Media)
General William Pendleton signs a sheet of paper for a student at Providence High School in New Lenox. Sophomores in U.S. History classes were given an assignment to get signatures from a variety of people at the event, including a general.
(Dawn Aulet for Shaw Media)
Re-enactors Roger Callender, of Bloomington and Mark Hess of Bourbonnais shop for mittens without fingers. While popular during the Civil War era for the ability to still shoot weapons, the knitted handcovers, made from an 1838 pattern, are back envogue because they allow wearers to text easily.
(Dawn Aulet for Shaw Media)
Darryl Sheldon, a pewterer, was back last weekend for his fifth year at the Civil War Days at Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon

CHANNAHON – Civil War Days at Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon is not just an opportunity for attendees to experience a Civil War battle, it’s also an opportunity to experience what life was like in that era.

The re-enactors certainly take on roles for the event, becoming not only soldiers on the Confederate or Union side, but often taking on roles of important military men from the era.

But it is not just the re-enactors who dress the part for the two-day event.

Max Grabowski, 6, dresses up for the occasion.

“I’m the blue guys,” he said of his uniform.

His mother, Laurie Grabowski, said she and her sons, Max and Sam, 11, attend the annual event, as does her husband, Nick.

“This is at least our third year in a row,” the Joliet resident said.

Participating as a family is not only something that happens for attendees, but also for re-enactors. Mike Arendt of Montgomery was playing the role of Gen. William Pendleton and said he has been involved in re-enacting since 1996, but just recently began playing this part. Today, his wife is also a re-enactor.

“My wife initially thought it was kind of goofy and next thing I know, she’s out here doing it, too,” he said.

This is the 18th year for the festival. The event is an opportunity for attendees to experience a re-enactment of a battle from the Civil War, which takes place on the hill at the farm.

“We love our farm and we love history,” Dollinger said before the battle began Sunday. “We appreciate the opportunity to share it with you.”

And while crowds gathered to watch the battles, others came more to experience the tents that are run by the blacksmiths, pewterers and the like.

For re-enactors, it is an opportunity to purchase gear that is period-specific but functional.

Roger Callender of Bloomingdale describes himself as a seasoned re-enactor.

He and Mark Hess of Bourbonnais were buying fingerless hand covers made by shepherdess Suzy Beggin, who makes the covers, called muffatees, from an 1838 pattern.

Beggin expects that re-enactors purchase the item because they can keep their hands warm but still have their fingers free to fire their weapons.

She was surprised, though, to find they are popular with people using them for a different reason – to keep their hands warm while keeping their fingers free to text on cellphones.

“There’s still ways of using those old-time things,” said Steve Helis, who has been a blacksmith for 30 years as a hobby, but had a tent at the Civil War Days the first time this year.

At his tent, Helis, of Joliet, was using traditional methods to blacksmith, but some of what he was creating had a modern role. For example, he was smithing horseshoes, but instead of being ones that would be used for horses, these could be personalized and hung in someone’s home.

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