Getting ready for a big event at a park is always a bit of work. You've got to dredge out things that are in storage, get your printed materials designed and deployed, and make sure everything looks tip-top before the massive throng of people comes to undo all your work. It's enough work in a visitor center, but it's more work when it involves 10 historic buildings and a winter's worth of dust, leaves, and guano.
So this week, I, with the rest of the staff at Fort Larned NHS powered through a lengthy checklist of projects to spruce things up for the big Memorial Day Weekend event at the fort, advertised as "Kansas's Largest Living History Event." In the ferocious winds, we beat 68 wool blankets in the barracks and re-made the beds while watching for brown recluse spiders (we only saw one), polished brass on 68 "3rd Inf. Co. C" Hardee dress uniform hats, swept buildings, dusted furniture, and got generally sunburned and physically exhausted by the end of all of it. I even used a leaf blower to dust out one building, which really cut through the thick dirt. I rescued a big, fat toad.
I selected an infantry uniform for myself that more or less fits, which I guess is part of the historical accuracy. Within seconds of donning the wool coat, I wanted to take it off. Needless to say, I have plans to bring more water bottles to work from now on, since there's no way I will stay cool until I've sweat through that thing. Summer is already here and we have daily highs in the upper 80s already. "Wait until August," they all say. The wool coats were used by the Army because they are not flammable, an important safety measure when dealing with black powder. I honestly think the dangers of overheating were (and are!) greater than the danger of death in combat.
I'm looking forward this weekend to seeing the fort humming with activity. We expect over 70 volunteers and staff to bring the fort to life. I'm looking forward to the 1870s rules "base-ball" game on Saturday, where I get to play for the "Fort Larned Soldiers" team. Rest assured your tax dollars were not wasted on the "Fort Larned Soldiers" getting one minute of practice before the game, which is a concern for me. I'm just a little bit competitive when it comes to baseball...