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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Historians dress as Reconstruction Era people for event

<p>Val Leitner, 36, washes off homemade biscuit batter off her hands in a water bowl during the living history Reconstruction era event at Dudley Farm Historic State Park on Sept. 4, 2015. Leitner was participating as one of the living historians and cooked food for other volunteers on a wood stove.</p>

Val Leitner, 36, washes off homemade biscuit batter off her hands in a water bowl during the living history Reconstruction era event at Dudley Farm Historic State Park on Sept. 4, 2015. Leitner was participating as one of the living historians and cooked food for other volunteers on a wood stove.

David Riker swung a ball and chain threateningly at two couples.

"I can put you to work," said the city marshall, peering over his wire-framed glasses at the women’s shorts. "Why are you wearing your husband’s pants?"

It was a question valid for a law enforcement agent in 1868.

Riker’s performance as city marshall was part of the Reconstruction Living History event at Dudley Farm Historic State Park, located at 18730 W. Newberry Road, on Friday and Saturday. Volunteers, including Riker, dressed in era clothing and re-enacted the lives of farmers, soldiers and storekeepers as part of the farm’s third annual living history Reconstruction Era event.

"It gives you a way to present history in a way that people will remember," said Riker, who has been a living historian for 30 years. "If you experience the sights, sounds, smells, and touch and feels of something, you’re gonna remember it a lot better than reading it in a book."

At least 15 volunteers came each day to act as if they lived in the Reconstruction Era. Women wore bonnets and aprons while men worked in the stores, on the fields and with the animals. While portraying characters of the past, they challenged modern visitors on their clothing choices, gadgets and hairstyles.

"We want them to realize that it is a totally different time," Riker said. "We aren’t going to be rude about it, but we are going to be direct about it."

"This is so neat," said one woman, despite being criticized for wearing capris.

About 40 or 50 people came to the event, said Sandra Cashes, a park services specialist, which she said is average for a living history event. The farm hosts other living history events from different time periods.

"We are able to show history and try to make it alive for visitors," Cashes said. "And that’s what is important to me, to be able to bring visitors in."

Contact Danielle Veenstra at dveenstra@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @_Veenstra_

Val Leitner, 36, washes off homemade biscuit batter off her hands in a water bowl during the living history Reconstruction era event at Dudley Farm Historic State Park on Sept. 4, 2015. Leitner was participating as one of the living historians and cooked food for other volunteers on a wood stove.

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