As the 150th anniversaries of big battles like Chancellorsville and Gettysburg are coming up this year, many people who have never been to a reenactment will be flocking to the sites. Reenactments can be very fun, but can easily become troublesome if you don't know what you are getting into.
As a reenactor, I have seen many spectators who looked completely lost as to what they were expecting when they showed up who could have enjoyed the event a lot more if they knew a couple of things in advance. A reenactment generally isn't the place for high heels, but there's always one woman there who didn't realize that the event was taking place in a field.
Advice for Spectators:
-Ask someone where the bulk of the battle will be. The battles are typically in the same spots each year so ask around to see if you can get a good spot. It's improbable that you will see the entire battle so if you get a good spot, keep it.
- Bring your own shade. Most events are held in the summer and there is little shade. Make sure you wear hats and sunscreen. If it's really sunny, you may even consider bringing umbrellas. Sunny can be fun but after hours in the sun, sunburn and sweat can easily become not so fun.
-Bring seating. Battles can be up to two hours long and seating is not
provided. It's easy to bring a blanket or some beach chairs. Also many events are held on grass with minimum paved roads. Wear comfy shoes and be prepared to walk on hilly fields. Strollers are sometimes more of a hindrance than a help.
-Pack a lunch. Make sure you bring lots of water and pack a lunch. There are almost always food vendors at events but be prepared to pay high prices and wait in long lines. You could make use of the day and pack a special picnic. Water is very important, make sure you have extra.
-Bring your own toilet tissue. If it's a huge event like the Gettysburg 150th anniversary, you can bet your bottom that there's a good chance there won't be any. Better safe than sorry.
-Explore the camps in the morning before everyone is exhausted. Many battles start at 1 or 2 PM, explore the camps before the battle so that you actually get a chance to see everything. It's unlikely that the camps will still be there after the battle on Sunday. Many reenactors travel far to attend reenactments so they have to leave early to get home in time for work on Monday morning.
-If you are bringing children, dress them up. The kids will definitely have more fun if they are wearing outfits that they don't normally wear. Dress little boys up in plaid shirts, jeans and a baseball hat. Dress girls in button down dresses or a shirt and long skirt with an apron and straw hat. It's not historically accurate but your kids won't mind and they'll have a ton more fun. Suitable outfits can be made out of thrift store finds for a few dollars. You may also think about bringing some toys or a card game. Sometimes the battles take a little while to start up.
Remember, reenactors pay as much as you do to go to events, please be respectful of them. Don't touch anything they bring without permission. All items you see are their personal belongings. Most reenactors are more than willing to let you see or even touch anything you ask to but it's much more polite to ask.
If you are a reenactor, do you have any tips on how to have a good time at a reenactment? If you are planning to attend a reenactment this year as a spectator, do you have any questions?