Campfires and Candlelight 2011

Inside the Fort at Campfires and Candlight

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News Release Date: September 17, 2011

Contact: Kimm Fox-Middleton, 360-816-6243

Contact: Cassie Anderson, 360-816-6247

VANCOUVER, WA -- September 17 is the date for "Campfires and Candlelight," Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's largest annual costumed re-enactment and signature community event.

The event is scheduled to begin at Pearson Air Museum where visitors first view historic pre-World War II aircraft, dramatically lit to match the ambiance of the campfires and candlelight outside. Visitors will then follow the event's "Timeline of History" pathway, strolling back in time along the park's new Spruce Mill Trail, weaving through encampments of costumed reenactors portraying U.S. Army soldiers, Oregon Trail immigrants, and residents of Fort Vancouver's Village.

Once at the gates to the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, visitors will have the opportunity to enter the fort and interact with reenactors interpreting a specific September night in 1846, when the Hudson's Bay Company began relief efforts for the shipwrecked crew the USS Shark, an American naval vessel that wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River after departing Fort Vancouver.The entire event is free of charge.


This year's event will feature several new opportunities for visitors. In the past, all the buildings of the fort were filled with costumed interpreters playing specific characters in the fort's history. This year, in response to visitor suggestions, the buildings are still filled with staff and volunteers in costume, but now visitors will be able to choose their level of interaction. Certain buildings will feature costumed interpreters portraying specific characters from 1846 as in the past, and others will have costumed interpreters able to speak to the past from a 21st century perspective.

"You can still ask Chief Factor James Douglas why John McLoughlin moved to Oregon City, or ask Joseph Petrain how long it takes to bake a sea biscuit, and they'll answer from the point of view of their character," explained Cassie Anderson, Park Ranger & Historic Programs Coordinator. "

But you can now ask the carpenters or blacksmiths if laborers abandoned the fort for the Gold Rush of 1849, find out what happened when the company left Vancouver completely, or inquire about how volunteers prepare for this event. This year, it's the best of both worlds - some interpreters are specific characters from 1846, and some can tell you about Vancouver's history after that year."

 Another new feature is a World War I-era Spruce Production Division camp along the "Timeline of History" pathway. Staff and volunteers portraying soldiers from the US Army's Spruce Production Division will explain the impact of the world's largest spruce cut-up mill on our region's population, forests, and industries, as well as the nation's role in World War I.


4:00 p.m. Pearson Air Museum opens; it will feature a dramatic lighting scheme to complement the candlelight ambience at the fort.

Timeline of history by campfire opens: it will feature several encampments of costumed reenactors, including:

U.S. Army camps at the Vancouver Barracks: drills, black powder demonstrations every hour throughout the evening.

  • Circa 1910s World War I-era: Spruce Production Division Mill
  • Circa 1870s - Indian Wars Period
  • Circa 1860s - Civil War Period by 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry

Oregon Trail camp circa 1849: Smell a meal cooked over an open fire, and hear stories of immigration, adventure, and the gold rush

The Company Village camp circa 1846: Fort Vancouver's Village was home to people from diverse cultures and languages. Learn Chinook Jargon, hear stories by the fire, and play the games of the past with costumed youth volunteers

The Fort Vancouver Garden circa 1846: Meander the paths of the bountiful HBC garden exhibit with costumed interpreters to learn about food, medicine, and plant use at Fort Vancouver

5:00 p.m. Howitzer Firing in the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry Camp

Fort Vancouver's stockade opens; visitors can travel back in time to September 13, 1846 when Fort Vancouver is buzzing with activity following the wreck of the USS Shark

7:00 p.m.Reenactment of Dinner in the Ladies Mess, Barclay Quarters, Counting House

8:00 p.m. Reenactment of Servants' Dinner in Kitchen

9:00 p.m. Howitzer firing in the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry Camp


The event is presented by National Park Service staff and over 150 volunteers from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Many participants this year have joined as youth volunteers after experiencing the park's new community outreach programs. "We call this incremental hooking," noted Kimm Fox-Middleton, Supervisory Park Ranger & Special Events & Volunteer manager. "We continue to connect to young adults through the park's growing Youth Volunteer-In-Parks Program (Y-VIP) and then follow up on those initial visits with opportunities for a deeper connection. The Campfires & Candlelight event is a great example; close to a third of the volunteers are ages 18 years old and under. The majority were trained over the winter through our immersive hands-on Saturday programs, with many volunteering through the summer -- all in preparation for this signature event. "


Further Information About the Event:

WHERE: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1001 East 5th Street. Carpooling is encouraged to the event, as parking is limited in the area. Event parking can be found on 5th street, directly north of the fort, the Visitor Center parking lot located at 1501 East Evergreen Blvd, and available parking areas within the Reserve. Handicap parking is available just across the street from the fort and at Pearson Air Museum and will be signed as such.

WHEN: Campfires and Candlelight Tour will occur on September 17, 2011 from 4:00 10:00 p.m.  The "Timeline of History" Camps and Pearson Air Museum open at 4:00 p.m. with the fort gates opening at 5:00 p.m.

COST: The event is free of charge. Regular entrance fees for Fort Vancouver and Pearson Air Museum will not be charged.

IMPORTANT: The fort hours of operation will be 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for the event on Saturday, September 17. The fort maintains regular Sunday hours following the event, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18. The Visitor Center will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the day of the event and from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance to the event at both the fort and Pearson Air Museum are free.


BACKGROUND: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, is the heart of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. The Vancouver National Historic Reserve brings together a national park, a premier archaeological site, the region's first military post, an international fur trade emporium, one of the oldest operating airfields, the first national historic site west of the Mississippi River, and a waterfront trail and environmental center on the banks of the Columbia River. The partners of the Reserve teach visitors about the fur trade, early military life, natural history, and pioneers in aviation, all within the context of Vancouver's role in regional and national development. The Reserve's vast array of public programs -- including living history events, festivals, cultural demonstrations, exhibits, active archaeology, and other special activities -- create a dynamic, fun, and unique tourist destination for people of all ages.


Last updated: February 28, 2015

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