In educational event at Shoal Creek
Spectators to gun battles and brawls at a local history museum on a recent weekend weren’t alone in their time travel experience to Missouri’s early settler days.
The approximately 20 re-enactors who donned long dresses and wool war uniforms in the steamy July heat, also enjoy the historical vantage point at the Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Kansas City, North. Lewis Case and others slipped into the past as they portrayed pioneers, law men, mountain men and outlaws who roamed the streets of nearby Missouri towns during their founding.
Case, member of Elliott Scouts, a local reenactors’ group, said he uses the sights, smells and even hot, sticky weather to imagine life as experienced by his ancestors.
“It makes the past real,” he said.
Case, of Osawatomie, Kan., is a self-professed “history nut” who credits his interest in early settlements to tales spun by his grandfather when he was a boy.
Some spectators were surprised by the authenticity of re-enactments, especially the use of real weaponry at the event at the museum, which is located at 7000 NE Barry Road, Kansas City.
“We’d been here before, but didn’t know you’d be armed like this,” Doug Biggs of Kansas City told Case as he peppered the “outlaw” with questions about his revolver. Case, who along with other re-enactors at the museum perform at numerous locations, said questions about arms are common.
Denna Roe, who wore a long pioneer-style dress with hat, performed as “Bad Betty” for the estimated 500 visitors who visited the museum with its 16 authentic wood log structures, each designated for a task, such as cooking, sewing, and sleeping.
The Saturday, July 17 event marked the first since COVID on the site, which is owned by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and also includes a replica grist mill.
While the museum typically operates on a regular schedule throughout the summer, this year’s pandemic has caused a scaling back and irregularly timed events, said Roe, who with her husband Joe (who plays Sheriff Roe), are among eight board members of the Shoal Creek Association, which operates the site.
The normal calendar includes several annual events, such as summer openings during first Saturdays through August, an October harvest celebration with horse-drawn wagon rides and pumpkin carving and a Christmas open house featuring a visit by St. Nick.
Deena said the public should check the association’s Facebook page or website for information about upcoming events.
Shoal Creek is operated using mostly government money, but funding has been drastically reduced and, in some cases, eliminated during the pandemic, she said. As fundraisers, the site is open to rentals for weddings and other events and sells photography “passes” to professionals taking portraits for weddings, family reunions and graduations, she said.
Betty Kunkel portrays “Aunt Betty,” who said her character is inspired by her great grandmother, Elizabeth Rebecca, known as Betty. The character actor, who donned a long cotton dress and cap, plays several old-time instruments, including the dulcimer. Although she did not play at the July 17 event, she hopes to break out her instruments during future Shoal Creek happenings this year, she said.
Claire Rathbone, 9, who traveled from Springdale, Ark. to visit the museum with her family, wore period clothing much like the re-enactors as did her younger sister, Paige, and said she was surprised by at least one aspect of pioneer life-the gunfire. “It was very noisy,” she said.