For the past 36 years, the Fort Union Trading Post has been inviting visitors to step back in time with its annual rendezvous. And for the past 36 years, Dave Finders has been there.
“I like history and I read a lot about it. And I wanted to delve into it. Reading is a wonderful things and you learn a lot. But you can’t learn it all until you do it,” says Finders.
Finders is part of the Fort Union Muzzle Loaders Association- a group dedicated to living, re-enacting, and imparting history to others. And that expertise enhances the overall experience of those taking part in the event.
“You might have a sense of what it was like, but until you live it or sleep out in a teepee with a buffalo robe and realize how cold it really is, it’s really hard to know exactly what it was like without living it,” says Andy Banta, park superintendent for the Ft. Union Trading Post.
For Kids Day, the first day of the four-day long rendezvous, visitors learned 19th century skills through activities and arts and crafts.
“We did the hammer thing. We learned about how they live and eat. It was not the same way how we do things,” says second grader, Kaeley Kulstad.
Perhaps things are different. But volunteers like Finders believe experiencing the past firsthand is the best way to truly learn about what came before.
“Going down to the river and camping out at thirty below, that’s an experience I could read about, but I couldn’t feel it until I did it,” says Finders.
And now Finders and other volunteers make sure visitors get a sense of the site’s history by giving them a feel for the past.
The Fort Union Rendezvous will continue throughout the weekend. The event is free and open to the public.