Relive American history at the Big Island Rendezvous and Festival—a culmination of historical entertainment, cultural demonstrations, and historic preservation in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
The annual festival, held the first full weekend in October and this year celebrating its 35th anniversary, brings together over 1,000 re-enactors from around the country to showcase the grit, determination, and history of Colonial North America.
“The Big Island Rendezvous festival helps us appreciate and understand our very own heritage that helped shape who we are, where we came from, and how our ancestors lived long ago,” said Perry Vining, founder and tours manager at the Big Island Rendezvous and Festival. “We feel it’s important to showcase what our forefathers went through to settle, build, and survive in the founding of our country.”
History and culture
Big Island Rendezvous centers on cultural reenactment and celebration of the fur trade period across the upper Midwest from the 1700s to the 1800s.
Experience the fur trade period in the Voyageur encampment, get a glimpse of Native American life on a tipi tour, see the colors and cultures of the Scottish Clann Tartan, hear the boom of the New Ulm Battery weaponry, and browse many early American crafts and authentic artifacts and collections.
“We focus on American heritage rather than European heritage at the festival because it’s important to preserve this influential history of the founding of our nation,” Vining said. “Here, participants will have the chance to interact with and see more than 300 camps, engage with all types of re-enactors, and step back in time to the 1700 and 1800s.”
Groups will experience the sights and sounds of Colonial history at the two-day event. Period encampments full of tents and community space span the entire 12-acre property and give a living history experience of what day-to-day lifestyles would have been like over 200 years ago in the New World.
Artisans and makers from eight different states attend the festival to display and sell handmade goods, including blacksmithing; candle making; weaving and spinning; wood, copper and silver working; and furniture building.
Music is also an important piece in America’s Colonial history. The Big Island Rendezvous gives groups the chance to not only listen to but interact with musical performers and artists around the festival grounds. Festivalgoers can explore a variety of performance areas featuring ongoing music and dance shows throughout the festival grounds.
“When the musicians are not performing on the stage they mingle with visitors in tents and play acoustic music throughout the festival grounds,” Vining said.
Food and drink
From sundries and candies of the era to hearty meals, groups can indulge in common foods from the fur trade era dating back to the early- to mid-1800s. Big Island Rendezvous and Festival vendors serve authentic and homemade food, including smoked turkey legs, barbecue ribs, pork chop on a stick, fry bread, stuffed baked potato with pork, and much more.
The festival is located in a city park in Albert Lea. Bus tour operators can drop off groups at the front entrance of the festival grounds. Individuals must park at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds to board the shuttle bus for a 1-mile ride to the festival.
Article by Erica Zazo
Main image: Canon firing; Credit: Big Island Rendezvous