ROCHEPORT — The scent of barbecue and soapmaking filled the air, broken by thunderous cannon shots on Sunday in historical downtown Rocheport as residents and visitors alike met Louis and Clark at Rocheport River Days.
Debris at the mouth of Moniteau Creek in Rocheport nearly prevented the keelboats and two smaller pirogues from docking at the site where Lewis and Clark visited 200 years ago on June 7, 1804. But thanks to modern advancements, a water patrol boat that accompanies the crew cleared the debris.
As the three boats docked, a crowd of eager people filed along the Katy Trail bridge and greeted the re-enactors with cheers and waves.
Rocheport had more visitors Sunday than were expected. According to volunteer Amy Pescaglia, the crowd was surprisingly large based on Saturday’s numbers and the competition with other weekend events.
Many people came for the education as parents fielded questions from their children about history and the boats. Ashland native Cathy Schiltz and her daughter, Molly, came simply to see history in action.
Molly, 9, said that she hadn’t studied the history of Lewis and Clark yet but that she had an assembly in school where she learned a little about the expedition.
One local resident took the idea of learning more about Lewis and Clark’s travels to heart. Local re-enactor Derek Biddle, 17, enjoyed a brief stay at home Sunday in Rocheport. Biddle, who joined the crew in Jefferson City, became interested in the expedition at the age of 10 when Glen Bishop, the founder of the Discovery expedition, came to Rocheport.
“Derek has always been one to go off and meet people,” said his mother, Jan Monckton.
While Bishop was visiting, Biddle met a Cherokee woman who gave him an uncut mink skin and said she would see him in 2004. Since then, Biddle has been hooked, but said before his expedition plans, he didn’t have much interest in history.
Biddle’s actual involvement began three years ago when his mother visited the Lewis and Clark Web site and told him about the training schools in St. Charles, and he began going to St. Charles on the weekends.
“As soon as I signed up, they put me directly to work,” he said.
Biddle manned the tiller on the keelboat as they glided into Rocheport, but once off the boat, he took over the duty of watching over Lewis and Clark’s dog, Seaman.
“He is one of the men just as much as the older men.” Monckton said.
Biddle said he is keeping a journal to help him remember his experience. He plans to accompany the group until Kansas City, where he will take leave until the group returns in 2005.
The re-enactors plan to leave Rocheport about 10 a.m. today and hope to be in Boonville by noon. For additional information visit the Web site at www.lewisandclark.net.