Rendezvous-goers step back in time to experience early days of Niles

Published 7:28 am Monday, June 16, 2003

NILES -- Blue skies welcomed the Fort St. Joseph Rendezvous Saturday and Sunday.
Rendezvous-goers made their way to grassy fields in the south end of Riverfront Park, across from the French Paper Mill dam.
As visitors strolled to each tent, it was possible to get a taste of the 1700s, learning at each stop what life may have been like so many years ago.
The event was brought to fruition by the efforts of the Support The Fort, along with local merchants and supporters who lent a hand.
Carol Bainbridge, director of the Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles and an active Support the Fort volunteer, said she thought the weekend went well.
Bainbridge also said the professional reenactors involved in this year's event, "just clicked."
The field, decked in canvas tents, complete with fires for cooking and wheels for spinning yarn, were bathed in bright sunshine while period-dressed reenactors roamed the grounds telling their stories of years past.
Not just yarn was spinning on Saturday, however, due to the fact that Genot Picor of Roseville was also spinning his tales -- to the delight of his listeners -- of the French, Indian, and the Great Lakes areas of Michigan long ago.
Charming his way through each tale, Picor admitted he finds great pleasure in the Rendezvous weekends he participates in as part of the Michigan Arts and Humanities Council Summer Tours.
A special education teacher in his hometown, Picor boasts of French and Wyandot heritage, and is glad to share that heritage with his audiences.
Stories complete with laughs, suspense, and songs that Picor teaches his eager audience, even ending his time in a hearty round of dancing, 1700s style. Gracefully playing his mandolin, Picor doesn't fail to greet each member of the audience, thanking them for coming.
Before Picor can say his last words, more music fills the fields as the strolling Trois Canards strike up a tune, encouraging the audience to join in once more for a simple dance that was at one time danced around an evening campfire.
As the audience shyly responds, other band members Suzanne Keldsen and Marti Pizzini join in the dancing while Picor joins in the merry making with his mandolin.
Whether it's Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, the Trois Canards stay busy following the rendezvous circuit on the weekends as they have for the past 10 years, teaching while spreading fun with their many instruments.
Janine Frizzo, Niles, spins yarn, which she explains to the onlookers will possibly be made into a sweater in November.
First year rendezvous participant Alexandra Seastrom, 16, took a short spinning lesson, trying her hand at the age-old craft.
Drew Barens, a seven-year-old from Burnips, and Brandon Horrigan, 12, from Hopkins, didn't seem to mind dressing as part of the past. Homemade wooden swords were keeping them busy on the hillside, while their families kept camp nearby.
Pere Gravier spoke to those who gathered near his tent about life as a Jesuit Priest at Fort St. Joseph, while other demonstrations caught the attention of attendees, including the reenactment of the 1763 attack at Fort St. Joseph during Pontiacs uprising.
Redcoats and muskets, flags raised high into the bright June sunshine, reenactors portrayed the battle as the audience drank their fresh squeezed lemonade, waiting for the Voyager landing.
This past weekend, the history of Niles in the 1700s really didn't seem all that long ago, or even so very far away.