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Published: Monday, 12/15/2008

Fort Meigs event offers a glimpse of Christmas past

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Janet Rasmussen adds sprinkles to a Christmas cookie for Jacob Sullivan of Oregon at the Fort Meigs Holiday Open House Sunday. Janet Rasmussen adds sprinkles to a Christmas cookie for Jacob Sullivan of Oregon at the Fort Meigs Holiday Open House Sunday.
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"Deck the Halls" poured from a band of dulcimers yesterday at the Fort Meigs Visitor Center in Perrysburg.

It was Christmas rewound at the War of 1812 battlefield and historical center's Holiday Open House, where cookie-making and dancing were intermingled with old-time handicrafts.

Perrysburg resident Susan Cayton was clad in period dress, leading visitors in traditional rope-making.

Don Rasmusson, 52, who lives south of Weston, was giving demonstrations as a tinsmith.

Visitors Madison Alford, 6, and Briar McMillan, 10, were do-si-doing and sashaying a traditional folk dance called a reel.

Historic site manager Rick Finch said the open house was designed to thank the public for its support and highlight that the historical center is open year-round. The fort began welcoming visitors during winter months after it opened its visitor center in 2003.

"We try to have a little bit of something for everybody," Mr. Finch said. "We have some shopping, some music, and some hands-on activities for the kids as well."

More than a dozen costumed re-enactors manned the various activity stations throughout the center.

Lynn Bristol, 48, of Northridge was running a game table with old-fashioned amusements such as checkers, tops, and whirligigs. She also introduced the public to more-obscure pastimes such as 9 Man Morris - a combination of checkers, chess and, tic tac toe - and whist, which is similar to euchre.

Oregon resident Becky Ormsby, 27, and her friend Christa Strickland were getting a lesson in rope-making from Ms. Cayton.

"Hold it taut. Come on girls, let's put some muscle in this," Ms. Cayton said. "Imagine doing this all day, six days, with your father or grandfather for a living."

It was Mrs. Ormsby's first trip to the 1812 battlefield, but she brought her husband, four children, her father, and his girlfriend. Everyone came away happy, from her father, the history buff, to the children with cookie frosting on their faces.

"This is American history," said Marty Land, president of the Old Northwest Military History Association, "and it's military history. It's all right here. You don't have to go very far."

Weston residents Tom and Jan Zulch brought their grandson Justus Smith, 12.

"They've really done wonders putting this together," Mr. Zulch said. "It's a very nice thing for northwest Ohio."

Justus was especially interested in the displays from the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. On the tabletop battlefield that brothers Steve and Doug Johnson had built, tiny British and American soldiers were positioned on opposite ends of an open field.

"It's kind of like a big chess board except it's random," Steve Johnson said. "It gives you the actual feel of the historic period."

He added: "The kids really like it."

Mr. Finch said he was hoping as many as 150 people would take part by the end of yesterday's open house. The event is a five-year tradition at Fort Meigs. Last year's celebration, however, was canceled because of an ice storm.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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