Retracing their first steps

Missourians are planning a spring
and summer of all things Lewis and Clark
Sunday, May 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

While other mid-Missouri residents are gearing up for spring by firing up the grill or pulling out the old baseball glove, Jefferson City resident Cliff Olsen is taking a trip back in time.

Olsen is a member of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, a nonprofit group that is rediscovering the legacy of Lewis and Clark by re-enacting a part of the historic expedition each year. The group members don period clothing, set out in keelboats and live in conditions similar to those faced by the expedition crew. Several members of the group will be sailing up the Missouri River this summer. And while Olsen will not be with the group this year, he’s still impressed by its efforts.

“I wish I could go, but I’m just too old for that,” Olsen said. “They’re doing something really spectacular by reliving history. These people have really done their homework, They know what was done in the past, and they’re doing it now.”

But, like Lewis and Clark, they must first get to the river. As the Corps of Discovery did in 1803, the St. Charles group began its journey from Camp DuBois in Wood River, Ill. Since then, the group has steadily made its way down the Ohio River across southern Illinois.

The group has been following the route and calendar recorded in the journals, Olsen said. Eventually, the group plans to finish in western Montana.

Along the way, the group also plans to stop at many of the festivals along the Missouri River in mid-Missouri commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition. A festival in Hartsburg this weekend kicks off celebrations throughout the state, which will continue until late June.

1. The St. Charles group won’t be able to make the Hartsburg festival this weekend. However, planners have brought in re-enactors from across the country, such as Sacagawea, Sgt. Patrick Gass and Seaman — a Newfoundland dog Meriwether Lewis purchased while waiting for his keelboat to be finished.

Hartsburg Mayor Nancy Grant said the festival will be “the first and the largest Lewis and Clark event in this area and very comparable to Jefferson City,” an impressive feat given the town’s population of 108.

To add to the $16,728 town leaders have budgeted for the event, Hartsburg requested and received grants from the Columbia Visitors Bureau, Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council and Boone Electric Community Trust. The money will be used this weekend to make sure people get an opportunity to engage in as many of the same activities as possible that Lewis and Clark did.

There will be riverside excursions for people to see the plants and animals recorded in the journals. Visitors may also travel by wagon to see the large rock behind the Native Stone Winery that was mentioned by Lewis and Clark and later named Bull Rock by local farmers.

In addition to Sacagawea and other visiting re-enactors, local people will provide entertainment for guests. Children from Southern Boone County Elementary School will put on a Lewis and Clark performance and teach crafts to other children.

2. On May 27, the Boy Scouts will be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Cupboard Creek Encampment hosted by the Missouri National Guard in Jefferson City.

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The state’s largest Lewis and Clark-themed event, it also marks a milestone for local scouting organizations at the Ike Skelton Training Center for the National Guard.

The event is expected to attract 3,000 to 4,000 scouts who have raised nearly $600,000 from grants and other donations, said Harry Wilding, chairman of the event.

“This will be the biggest thing that has ever happened in the Great Rivers Council,” said Bill Stine, co-chairman of public relations for the City of Jefferson Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Task Force. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the B-2 flies over.”

Stine said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., plans to be in attendance, as will the St. Charles expedition group, which will have made its way up the river into Missouri by that time.

The St. Charles group won’t be the only group on the river. Wilding said the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard will bring riverside barges to the event to give the scouts a ride. The National Guard will also be there with tanks on display, along with the Fort Riley Calvary Honor Guard. In addition to sponsoring the Boy Scouts, the National Guard has a vested interest in the event.

“The Lewis and Clark expedition grew up out of a volunteer militia, which is the same organization the Missouri National Guard had its roots in, so the guard is being very supportive,” said Bill Ambrose, co-chairman of the event.

At the end of the festival, the St. Charles group will arrive in Jefferson City where it will remain June 1 and 2.

Joining the group will be the National Park Service Corps of Discovery II that will stop in Jefferson City June 1 to 6. This group brings with it a traveling exhibit that includes two interactive tents with exhibits and a performance tent entitled The Tent of Many Voices, which will provide a space for live demonstrations, lectures, cultural presentations and audio-visual showings.

June 4 will mark the 200th anniversary of the expedition's stop at the capital city. On this historic day, musical presentations and commemoration activities will be held at the Native Stone Winery, just outside Jefferson City.

3. The first annual Lewis and Clark River Festival, will take place in Huntsdale, population 33, on June 5 and 6. The town's population is expected to swell considerably when people come to see the re-enactors of the St. Charles Discovery Expedition and the Missouri River Communities Network’s Exploration Outpost.

Ana Lopez, Huntsdale’s festival coordinator, estimates that 900 to 1,000 people will show up each day for the festival.

The town plans to spend about $9,800 on the festival and is also hoping to get a grant from the Missouri Arts Council to cover the costs. People from all over the area have pitched in time and resources to make the event a success.

“We’re excited and exhausted,” Lopez said. “It’s not just the town, but our neighbors on State Route O and Terrapin Hills that are supporting the festival.”

The Exploration Outpost will include knowledgeable re-enactors dressed in period clothing who will be available to answer questions about their exhibits. The exhibit will include animal pelts and maps of the Missouri River then and now and the routes Lewis and Clark took. Information about the habitat and water quality of the Missouri River and information about the contributions of American Indians, women and blacks to the original expedition will be on hand as well.

4. Rocheport will celebrate the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition on June 5 and 6. Rocheport Mayor Frances Turner said this is the first Lewis and Clark event the community has held in two years, though it is different than past celebrations the town has hosted.

“This event is the first to be sponsored strictly by local members of the community,” Turner said. “It will be more hometown than in the past.”

The $3,500 raised for the event came from the city of Rocheport, merchants, residents and the Friends of Rocheport, a historical society that sponsors the local museum and other community events.

Along with the Exploration Outpost and the St. Charles group, which will arrive via keel boat on June 6, the Department of Natural Resources will also be available to discuss the history of the river.

Tamara Campbell, chair of Rocheport River Days, said, “This event should be fun and allow people to learn something in the process.”

The June 5 celebration will conclude at 7 p.m. with a street dance.

Rocheport’s Les Bourgeois Winery will begin its own party with bands playing all day June 6. The winery plans to host the St. Charles group, too, though it is still working to raise the suggested $1,000 donation the group needs to make the journey.

No matter whether people come Saturday or Sunday, Campbell thinks visitors will see something special.

“We want people to see Rocheport in June; it is so beautiful,” she said.

5. Another stop for the St. Charles group will be in Boonville for the town’s 11-day heritage/Lewis and Clark festival June 3 to 14. The Discovery Expedition of St. Charles will be there on June 7. The Corps of Discovery II will also be on hand June 11 to 14.

“It’s quite a deal for a town this size,” said Jackie Bruner, AmeriCorps volunteer for the Missouri River Communities Network and Lewis and Clark festival coordinator for Boonville.

The Exploration Outpost, the Community Art and Flower Show, a Classic Car Show at Isle of Capri Casino and a children’s mural project will be just a few of the attractions.

6. While other towns might hold more elaborate celebrations, Arrow Rock will focus on the historical side of Lewis and Clark and the events that occurred because of their voyage up the Big Muddy.

“That’s all we do here: history,” said Kathy Borgman, a member of the Friends of Arrow Rock, the group that is coordinating most of the town’s Lewis and Clark celebrations.

“We’re not pressing the commercial aspect of it,” said Mike Dickey, administrator for Arrow Rock State Park.

One of the most notable events that will happen near Arrow Rock is an archaeological excavation of Sibley’s Fort. The fort was a trading post between expedition members and American Indians that was created as a result of Lewis and Clark’s travels.

Arrow Rock will host the St. Charles group in the Big Muddy Wildlife Reserve June 8 and 9, at which time the town will have a Lewis and Clark commemoration at the gazebo overlooking the Big Muddy Wildlife Reserve.

Throughout June, Arrow Rock State Historical Site will have an exhibit produced by the state historical society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service featuring the wildlife encountered by Lewis and Clark.

The Friends of Arrow Rock is sponsoring a lecture by William Least Heat-Moon on June 6, as well as many other events.

“I’m hoping that Lewis and Clark will be a platform for historical celebrations,” Dickey said.

7. Glasgow will be the final stop in mid-Missouri for the St. Charles group as well as for the Exploration Outpost.

“It’s a piece of history that none of us will see again,” said Diane Clark, chair of the committee sponsoring the event. “We’re looking at making it a heritage festival.”

The festival events will last June 9 to 12 and will include a pioneer dinner, a fiddle contest, a wagon train, a vintage baseball game, a quilt show and story-telling by historian Jim “Two Crows” Wallen.

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