This weekend, visitors took a break from modern life for a short trip to the fur trade era.
The Cannon River Rendezvous, held on the banks of the river along Highway 19, demonstrated the everyday life of fur trader or voyageur during the era between 1720 and 1840. Each spring, re-enactors gather to camp as early traders lived, giving demonstrations of everything from tomahawk throwing to shoe-making to blacksmithing, as well as selling their handmade wares.
The Rendezvous, hosted by the Twin Cities Muzzle Loader Club, has been at this year’s site for about a decade, though re-enactors said the event itself goes back nearly 50 years. This and other rendezvous events are a nod to the early history of the area, when traders sought to make a profit off beaver fur, which was highly fashionable during the era until beavers were nearly gone from the region in 1940.
Pegeen Razeske sewed a pair of shoes by hand at her tent, describing how she learned her trade as a cordwainer by studying under a master bootmaker. It’s not an outdated skill, she explained, since she often does business for customers with hard-to-fit feet.
“It’s one of those lifelong learning things,” she said. “We were making shoes long before machines.”
For Jim Strupp, who sat in his campsite dressed in fur trader garb, it’s all about connecting with like-minded re-enactors while keeping this history alive.
“My childhood heroes were these people,” he said.
Re-enactors deviate from true history by bringing their whole families, though women and children were unlikely to stay at a fur trading camp in the 1800s. Today, kids run through the camp, both re-enactors and visitors.
“It’s a family event,” said re-enactor Mark Rutledge, who made camp with his wife, Megan, and daughters Isabella and Lily. “Everybody seems to know everybody.”
The Rendezvous will stay open during the rest of the weekend, until 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. A Memorial Day service will be at 1 p.m. on Monday.