Re-enactors to bring village to life
Step onto the streets of a small town in 1876 and stroll among pioneers, mountain men, outlaws, and law men, who are all wearing period clothing. Peer into authentic houses and mercantile structures for a glimpse of how early Missouri residents lived and witness a “shoot-out” in a replica civilization this weekend.
The view, which one volunteer said looks similar to the 1970s television show “Little House on the Prairie,” is courtesy of re-enactors sharing their knowledge of the era and acting skills at Kansas City’s Shoal Creek Living History Museum.
The free family event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, 7000 N.E. Barry Road, Kansas City, will mark the museum’s first programming since the pandemic and, while scaled-back from usual productions, offers visitors a view into the revelry and everyday life of some of Missouri’s earliest residents.
Organizers will host the year’s first activity rain or shine, according to a flier advertising the event.
A troupe of about 25 re-enactors will perform various skits that last from 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day, said Deena Roe, who is among eight board members of the Shoal Creek Association, which operates the site.
The museum’s 80-acre site, owned by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, is dotted with 16 authentic structures dating from the early to late 1800s that were moved from Clay and Platte County over several years, Roe said. Buildings include cabins dedicated to different tasks, such as cooking, sewing, and sleeping and includes a grist mill. She and her husband, Joe Roe, also have reenactors’ roles. Deena portrays “Bad Betty” while Joe acts as Sheriff Roe.
Joe also maintains the site’s Facebook page and website and conducts some building and grounds maintenance. The two have been board members for the past eight years and are among more than 50 volunteer reenactors, she said.
“This is not a normal season for us as we are cautiously returning to having events due to COVID,” she wrote in an email. .”we are still observing precautions.”
While historic structures on the property will be opened for viewing from outside, gates will be in place “to guard against patrons congregating” in the buildings, she said. Because many of the activities that usually accompany the museum’s events, including concessions, will be left out for now, “patrons will be more involved in skits” this year as a way to make up for the losses, she wrote.
Some normal events include live music played on old-fashioned instruments, such as dulcimers. All activities are as authentic as possible, including musical numbers. Re-enactors educate the public about common habits of the day, all of which have specific meanings. For instance, women never walked nearest the road and the way a gentleman tips his hat varies and each has a different meaning, Roe said.
Re-enactors also focus on events that really happened in small-town Missouri during the era. Demonstrations, during non-pandemic times, focus on etiquette, for instance. Volunteers use black powder rifles with adaptations-rifles are filled with Cream of Wheat instead of gun powder.
Shoal Creek relies on government money to support projects and props used to re-create the small town, but such funding has been drastically reduced and, in some cases, eliminated during the pandemic, Deena said.
The museum’s calendar during normal seasons includes numerous annual events, including first Saturday openings during June, July and August, an October harvest event featuring horse-drawn wagon rides and pumpkin carving and a Christmas celebration featuring appearances by St. Nick.
Educational school programs also normally are held, as are teas organized by “Ladies of the Polite Society,” Roe said. She urged the public to periodically check the site’s Facebook page to learn about upcoming events as the city staff and volunteers decide which events to safely host and work toward re-opening.
In addition to free public events, the site usually is home to several rentals and for-profit ventures that help support the museum, Roe said. These include rentals for weddings and other events and the sale of “photography passes” sold to professional photographers who use the grounds as a backdrop for portraiture for weddings, family, and graduation photos.