Rendezvous recreates pre-1840s living - The Ledger

Rendezvous recreates pre-1840s living – The Ledger

Eric Pera @ciapastryboy

HOMELAND — Rosie Johnson treasures childhood memories of running wild near the banks of the Alafia River in Hillsborough County, spying pirates, Seminoles and fierce-looking frontiersmen wrapped in buckskin and fur.

The 34-year-old from Dover relived those memories this past week with her daughter, Isla Powell, 3, at the same event — the Alafia River Rendezvous — which has since relocated to 300 acres in Homeland, midway between Bartow and Fort Meade.

Now in its 47th year, the annual event brings together more than 1,300 enthusiasts of pre-1840s history to recreate the mountain man gatherings that occurred in the American West before the Civil War. Participants dress in period attire, cook on open fires and take refuge in white, canvas tents appropriate for the era.

Another 400 children accompanied parents to this year’s week-long rendezvous, which concluded Saturday, when it was open to the general public.

Just as she did with her parents some 30 years ago, Johnson and her daughter camped several nights in a period tent, along with her boyfriend, Matt Fulwood, a chef at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, who found rustic camping to his liking, mostly.

“It wasn’t bad,” he said, “but one night, my feet got cold.”

These days, the rendezvous is sponsored by the Florida Frontiersmen, a black powder organization dedicated to preserving history. The group owns the parcel of land that has been home to the event since 2002.

A goal is to get more children involved, said the club’s president, Ron Clark, dressed Saturday in pirate garb. “We try to stay away from the Gasparilla variety (in Tampa),” he said. “We’re more authentic.”

Visitors on Saturday enjoyed near-perfect weather as they shopped for a variety of goods such as hand-forged, iron tent stakes, tomahawks, knives, black-powder rifles, pelts and more.

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