A few hundred people waited ashore as the keelboat and the two smaller pirogues of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles were slowly approaching Huntsdale on Saturday. On the front line were volunteers dressed in period clothes, some armed with period rifles, others with flowers.
The expedition arrived for the Huntsdale Lewis and Clark River Festival after spending Friday night in Lupus. The crew of re-enactors will continue to Rocheport this morning for the town’s festival, Rocheport River Days.
As the keelboat approached, a gunshot from aboard greeted the crowd. Half a dozen rifles responded from the shore.
“Hello, Huntsdale!” shouted Capt. William Clark, who is portrayed by his descendent, Peyton Clark.
“Hello!” the crowd responded. “Hip-hip-hooray!”
First to jump ashore was Seaman — a 140-pound black Newfoundland, who resembles Capt. Meriwether Lewis’s dog in name and breed. After all three boats were secured to the bank, Clark and his crew came ashore and exchanged handshakes with Huntsdale Mayor Debby Lancaster.
Locals and guests were quick to surround the re-enactors and ask them questions about the river, their trip or the original expedition. The crew mingled for a while but soon turned to setting up their tents and building the overnight camp.
At the Rendezvous Camp, Rebecca Oliger was sitting in her tent surrounded by colorful yarns, period scissors and modern-day books on knitting techniques. While passers-by stopped and admired her yarns, she was knitting on a weaving triangle frame, dressed in a pastel period dress and a white bonnet. Oliger and her mother have re-enacted pre-1820 fur trader camps for 20 years, she said.
Next to Oliger stood a small tray full of black iron scissors. They are imported from China just like they used to be 200 years ago, she said. “These scissors are so strong that you can cut pennies in half with them,” she said.
Wooden baskets with colorful yarns fill the tent, some of them dyed in the authentic way of early 1800s, others in a more modern manner. Oliger points to a roll of blue wool that was dyed with an indigo plant, a green roll that was first colored in yellow with Osage orange leaves and then turned green with indigo, and a red roll that was helped by the dye of the cochineal beetle.
“Knitting is a craze,” she said, “for college girls and even guys” who frequent her yarn shop in Columbia.
In a neighboring tent, Paul Baum demonstrated handcrafted flutes in Native American style to a young family and a handful of other onlookers, sitting on straw piles. As he improvised with the flute, he talked about the structure of the instrument, the way it creates the tones and how to play it correctly. The flute lectures soon turned into practice lessons as Baum gave his audience a couple of flutes to try.
Standing nearby, Ken Porter, a volunteer from the Missouri Department of Conservation, was showing replicas of period weapons and several originals, including a model 1795 musket carried by the Corps of Discovery, “the main weapon” of the expedition, as Porter described it.
The re-enactment will continue today at Rocheport River Days, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by the river. A community potluck dinner with the re-enactors as honored guests will follow from 6 to 8 p.m.