Encore March 2015

Page 10

up front encore

History Comes Alive


Step back in time at the Kalamazoo Living History Show

Native American dancers, such as this one, will perform as part of the Kalamazoo Living History Show.

10 | Encore MARCH 2015


earning about history is usually a quiet, educational process. Reading historical accounts, holding artifacts or going to a museum can help us see a picture of the past, but that’s not the same as experiencing it.. Imagine being able to step back in time and become immersed in pre-1980 American history through reenactments, authentic dress, Native American drumming and dancing and artisan demonstrations. That is what the annual Kalamazoo Living History Show provides — history that feels alive. The March 21-22 event at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center will feature 10,000 visiting war reenactors (from the French and Indian War through the Civil War), history buffs, collectors, craftspeople and dealers. Such an interactive historical atmosphere connects modern-day Americans to their history, and bringing in so many different exhibitors allows the show to expand into as many American experiences as possible, says Leslie Conwell, the show’s executive director. “Our shared American history is at the center of the show, and all aspects of that experience make it important,” Conwell says. This is the show’s 40th year. Conwell says free admission for children as well as a room dedicated to kids’ activities allow the Kalamazoo Living History Show to create a kid-friendly space so parents can experience history with their families. “One reason we do the kids’ activities is because we noticed that we’re getting more and more young people in, and it’s a great way to engage them,” Conwell says. “We do period activities like putting on spurs, twirling lassos, beading — they are heritage-based and fun.” The Kalamazoo Living History Show also tries to bridge generations by offering a Kalamazoo Living History Horizon Grant to one artisan under age 28 to demonstrate his or her skills at the show. Discover Kalamazoo funds the artisan’s stay in a local hotel for two nights, and the Kalamazoo Living History Show provides meals and gas as well as a featured spot in the show. This year’s grant winner is Ashley Burton, a young artisan from Indiana who will demonstrate the American art of scrimshaw (engravings and carvings done in bone).