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The battle of Mississinewa nears

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HEW: The log pictured here will be hand-hewn into a canoe during the presentations throughout the festival.
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REVIEW: Mississinewa 1812, events presidentAnthony Decker reviews the progress being made to build a longhouse on the festival grounds ahead of Friday’s battle reenactment.

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

Mississinewa 1812, one of the telltale signs of fall for Grant County, will celebrate 32 years this weekend.

Participants and attendees alike will be able to travel back in time and catch a glimpse of life in Indiana during the country’s infancy.

Reenactors are currently working on setting up around Mississinewa Reservoir, but by Friday, the land will be transformed into the largest War of 1812 living-history event in the country.

“The whole place comes to life,” Anthony Decker, president of the Mississinewa Battle Society Inc., said.

Decker said the event is “juried,” meaning that only aspects from the time period are permitted in order to provide a more authentic experience.

Amidst the sound of the cannons and gunfire, the smell of food cooking over open fires and the sight of settlers and natives honing their crafts, Decker said there is something for everyone in this “multi-sensory” experience.

For many people, especially county residents, the event has become a tradition.

Decker has always been involved with the event in some capacity.

He said his grandfather was friends with some of the first reenactors, and he himself began reenacting when he was 15 years old.

Though Decker might live in the past at times, he’s helped usher in some new aspects to the festival.

This year, the Friday reenactment will specifically be the Battle of Mississinewa, rather than a general battle from the War of 1812 done in previous years.

Modern advancements have made it easier for reenactors to nail down specific details about the battle, but Decker said there’s always more to learn.

“It’s all of our jobs as reenactors to dig deep and never stop,” he said.

With an estimated 2,000 reenactors, it’s not hard to be fully immersed in everything going on.

Not only are the sights and sounds authentic, but so are the tastes, according to Decker.

Decker said there’s one site that cooks as if they were living off the land, offering samples of modern novelties like hog brain and bison testicles.

Whether patrons are tasting more traditional foods or sitting on the viewing mound to watch a battle reenactment, the event serves as a live action history lesson.

Decker said students can pick up on more at the festival than they would in a classroom setting.

“We’re trying to influence the next generation,” Mississinewa Battle Society Vice President Heather Allen said.

With about 4,000 students present on Friday, the two executive members hope they can find people who might want to carry on this tradition one day.

“They might be the next us,” Decker said.

But their efforts go beyond educating younger generations. Decker said that even after all the visitors leave, most reenactors remain in character.

“There are moments when you feel like you’re really there,” he said.

No one dares grab a flashlight or a cell phone as they camp on the edge of the Mississinewa.

Instead, they listen to the sights and sounds soldiers and settlers might have witnessed more than 200 years ago.

Mississinewa 1812 runs this Friday through Sunday with activities open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Sunday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.