Rendezvous with the 1700s at Fort de Chartres

French Marines stand at attention at Fort de Chartres.
French Marines stand at attention at Fort de Chartres. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site

Fire the cannons and call out the French Marines! More than 12,000 people are preparing to storm Fort de Chartres on Saturday and Sunday for the 45th annual Rendezvous.

Cannons will boom, soldiers will march in colorful uniforms and old-fashioned music and dancing will take visitors back to the 1700s, when French trappers and soldiers roamed the area near Prairie du Rocher.

“We’ll have about 300 camps and about 1,200 people wearing historical costumes,” said Darrell Duensing, manager of Fort de Chartres Historic Site. “We expect between 12,000 and 14,000 visitors for the two-day Rendezvous.”

Duensing, who will be dressed as a French Marine on Sunday, should know. “I missed the first two, in ’70 and ’71,” he said. “But I’ve been here for all the rest. It gets better every year.”

From black powder shooting events, to sword fighting to visitors trying their luck at tomahawk throwing, the family fun will be non-stop. But don’t miss the opening or closing ceremonies.

“I always tell visitors, whatever you do, try to arrive before 10 o’clock or stay until 5,” Duensing said. “The opening and closing ceremonies are the coolest things. Bands and military units line up on the parade grounds and they play several different songs. It’s quite a spectacle.”

Visitors strolling through the fort will find artisan and craft demonstrations that include blacksmithing, metal-working in silver and pewter, pottery, basket weaving, woodworking and silk ribbon embroidery. Many items will be for sale.

Faire Wynds will perform magic. the Budabi Brothers will amaze the audience with their juggling talents. and Father, Son and Friends, fife and drum troupes, The Peacocks Band and Booneslick Strings and more will perform traditional music.

People can watch demonstrations of 18th century swordplay and working oxen teams. The River Gate Food Court will feature a variety of food and drinks for sale under a large tent.

New this year is a kids area where a Boy Scouts venturing crew will put on a puppet show and other activities for kids.

Rendezvous at a glance

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, 37 miles south of Belleville and 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher. Take Illinois 3 to 155 and follow the signs.

Admission: Free; $5 per car parking fee.

Events both days

10 a.m. Opening ceremonies and posting of colours

10 a.m.-noon Primitive archery competition

10:30 a.m. Lewis and Clark Fife and Drum Corps

11 a.m. Music by Traveler’s Dream

11:15 a.m. French Marines drill

11:30 a.m. Great River Fife and Drum Corps

Noon Booneslick Strings

Noon-2:30 p.m. Knife and tomahawk throw competition

12:45 p.m. Music by Father, Son and Friends

1:45 p.m. Tippecanoe Ancient Fife and Drum Corps

2:30 p.m. Dr. Theophratus von Gerlach

3 p.m. 42nd Royal Highlanders Band of Pipes, Fifes & Drums

3:30 p.m. Prairie du Rocher La Guiannee Society

3:45 p.m. 18th century fashion show

5 p.m. Retreat ceremony

8-10 p.m. Saturday — A dance for all participants and visitors

8 a.m. Sunday — Catholic Mass and Protestant service

Noon-2:30 p.m. Sunday, skillet toss