Photo Gallery | 1777 Colonial Encampment
OTIS — Blue-gray smoke from a small campfire mingled with the swiftly dissipating morning mist Sunday morning in an open field behind the Farmington River Elementary School on Route 8.
White tents with sharply pointed roofs dotted the clearing. Between the tents, men and women in Colonial garb scurried in various directions. An older man sang a song.
The re-enactors from the nonprofit Ye Olde Towne Lebanon Militia were starting their day.
"It's a way for us to bring history to life," said Carrie Ward of Tolland, Conn. "It gives people a chance to see how things were done in those days."
"Those days" are the 1770s, according to Kenneth Giella, a retired history teacher and former dean of students at Rham High School in Connecticut.
The organization is based in Lebanon, Conn., and most of the actors are from that area. The group is about 21 years old, according to Giella. They generally have about 14-16 encampments annually, he said.
According to another member, Christoper J. Keller of Peru, a fifth grade teacher at Farmington River, Sunday was more of a "laid-back" day. There were cooking demonstrations, and a talk by interpreters dressed as doctors and nurses about medical treatment in the 18th century, but Sunday was a lower-key day than Saturday, which had militia drills and a big dinner.
The group was at the Farmington River campus as part of their regular summer encampments, Giella said. The mission of the group is mostly educational, he said.
"We get questions," he said. "Younger people often ask us, 'Which side won?' I don't blame the teachers. It's the curriculum. The 18th century isn't an era that is emphasized any more."
Giella is the commander of the militia encampment. He is extraordinarily passionate about that historical era.
"We're teaching young people about the workings of this country in the 18th century," he said. "It's a privilege to live in this country, and I don't think young people understand that.
"Wherever we go, I ask them, 'Would you be willing to sign a document that you knew would brand you traitor and cause your government to confiscate your property and throw you in jail?' Because that's what people like George Washington and John Hancock did when they signed the Declaration of Independence.
"And I never see anyone raise their hand."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.