The Nation’s Largest WW II Reenactment Happens in in Rockford IL


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North America » United States » Illinois » Rockford
October 9th 2013
Published: November 27th 2013
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A Nice Overview Of A Portion Of The EncampmentA Nice Overview Of A Portion Of The EncampmentA Nice Overview Of A Portion Of The Encampment

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Having spent some time planning visits with family and friends as well as allowing for some impromptu sibling time, I had a pretty full schedule for my three weeks in northern Illinois when I departed Springfield IL on Wednesday, September 18, 2013. With the exception of a 20-30 minute downpour on I-39 that reduced ALMOST everyone’s speed to 35-40 mph, the three-hour trip was uneventful. Welcome back to the Midwest!

Rockford, for all of its shortcomings, has an excellent park system and has numerous well-done festivals. Unfortunately, a couple of the better festivals - the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In and the On the Waterfront festival - have departed for whatever reason. I decided to check the events schedule and found that a World War II Reenactment would be held at Midway Village in Rockford during my visit.

The Midway Village Museum campus sits on a 137-acre site located near I-90 and merits a visit in its own right. The Main Museum Center and a Victorian-era Village are centrally located and within walking distance from each other. The Main Museum Center highlights local history with current exhibits entitled: Queen City of the Prairies, The Girls of Summer (the Rockford Peaches professional softball team – 1943-54), The Missing Link: Socks, Monkeys and Rockford’s Industrial Past, and the Flight Gallery.

The Victorian Village is comprised of 26 historical buildings filled with artifacts of the era as well as several 19th century gardens that depict life in Northern Illinois from 1890 to 1910. Guided tours are conducted by costumed interpreters from May through August with self-guided tours at other times. Historical buildings represented include a general store, police station, fire station, school house, hospital and barber shop.

The World War II Reenactment is much more than just a reenactment. A “Behind the Lines” tour on Friday evening finds tour guides taking visitors through the Village to get a preview of the weekend activities. Saturday finds the encampment areas open all day with two afternoon reenactments and a USO-style dance on Saturday evening. Sunday has the encampments open in the afternoon and one reenactment. I only took part in the Saturday daytime activities - it’s hard to allemande left to big band music without a partner!

I arrived mid-morning on Saturday and wandered through the encampments. A map of the event site was provided showcasing the battlefield and the various encampments
Plenty Of Opportunity To Interact And Ask QuestionsPlenty Of Opportunity To Interact And Ask QuestionsPlenty Of Opportunity To Interact And Ask Questions

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
and attractions. Over 1000 re-enactors from 40 states characterizing soldiers of the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Italy and Japan were positioned around the campus doing what soldiers do when unengaged – cleaning weapons, repairing equipment, cooking, improving emplacements AND talking to the kids (okay, the adults too). In addition to the encampments, several buildings in the Victorian Village housed displays and artifacts relevant to World War II.

Soon it was time to take the 70 to 80 vintage tanks, armored personnel carriers, half-tracks, jeeps, motorcycles and other 1940s era military vehicles to the battlefield. The battle to be staged, and therefore the outcome, was unknown to the emcee, but he was astutely aware of the vehicles and provided a running narrative of which vehicles were going where. The elaborate and realistic battle complete with sometimes startling pyrotechnic events was very interesting.

After the battle, I returned to the encampment and the Victorian Village. General Patton, as portrayed by Denny Hair of Hockley TX, recreated a couple of his most famous speeches. Hair, one of the country’s foremost experts on General Patton, was making his first appearance at the event. There also was a
Donut Dollies And WACs Played An Important RoleDonut Dollies And WACs Played An Important RoleDonut Dollies And WACs Played An Important Role

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
re-creation of a daily briefing session like those that were provided to General Patton. Re-enactors also presented a special program on the Battle of the Bulge which showed the strategy and decision-making involved from the point of view of each side.

Authenticity is imperative and found many of the re-enactors eating ‘shit on a shingle’ (the era’s signature military issue food) prepared in an historically accurate full field kitchen. One re-enactor told me he didn’t come to Midway Village to participate in a live-action war game but 1) to honor the World War II veterans by conveying their stories and 2) to participate in a part of United States history.

The museum web site section “Our City, Our Story” has an interesting video short entitled “The Greatest, Thank You” (4:25), a video specifically showcasing the World War II Days event as seen by Rockford’s Sam Hiser, a member of the Tri-State Living History Association. I can’t get the video to boot from a hyperlink, but the video menu is at: http://ourcityourstory.com/allstories/. Click the “WATCH” hyperlink below the description of the “The Greatest, Thank You” video and then click the “Play” icon.

I highly recommend the re-enactment for
Learning The Battle PlanLearning The Battle PlanLearning The Battle Plan

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
those with an interest in WW II and recommend Midway Village to those passing through Rockford. By the way, the re-enactment is held rain or shine.

In addition to the re-enactment and visits with family and friends (including a two-night visit with my cousin in Chicago), I attended a Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibition and a match hosted by the local women’s’ roller derby team, the Rockford Rage. I’ve seen the banked track competitions on television but have never attended one nor have I seen a flat track competition. One more thing to check off the proverbial bucket list!

Rockford, Illinois! What can I say? It was not my choice to be born there, but it was my choice to spend a good portion of my adult life there. It appears there are two things that keep people in Rockford – a job and family. Now that a good percentage of the jobs have emigrated to China, family is about all that keeps many people there. Indeed, that is what keeps me emulating a boomerang!


Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 25


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The View From My Cousin’s ApartmentThe View From My Cousin’s Apartment
The View From My Cousin’s Apartment

North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL
Some Very Nice Handmade Instruments Were On DisplaySome Very Nice Handmade Instruments Were On Display
Some Very Nice Handmade Instruments Were On Display

Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibition - Rockford IL
Sorta Outrageous, Ya Think?Sorta Outrageous, Ya Think?
Sorta Outrageous, Ya Think?

Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibition - Rockford IL
No Banking On This Roller Derby TrackNo Banking On This Roller Derby Track
No Banking On This Roller Derby Track

Rockford Rage Roller Derby Contest - Rockford IL
And The First Shot Is FiredAnd The First Shot Is Fired
And The First Shot Is Fired

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Moving Into PositionMoving Into Position
Moving Into Position

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Singing <I Love A Parade>Singing <I Love A Parade>
Singing <I Love A Parade>

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
“Can You See The Whites Of Their Eyes?”“Can You See The Whites Of Their Eyes?”
“Can You See The Whites Of Their Eyes?”

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Reinforcements Arrive!Reinforcements Arrive!
Reinforcements Arrive!

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
The Adversary Appears Ready For A FightThe Adversary Appears Ready For A Fight
The Adversary Appears Ready For A Fight

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
It’s Beginning To Look Like A Country Boy Whoopin’It’s Beginning To Look Like A Country Boy Whoopin’
It’s Beginning To Look Like A Country Boy Whoopin’

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
A Well-Camouflaged BunkerA Well-Camouflaged Bunker
A Well-Camouflaged Bunker

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
“Colonel Klink, Colonel Hogan Is Not Here”“Colonel Klink, Colonel Hogan Is Not Here”
“Colonel Klink, Colonel Hogan Is Not Here”

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
“How Do You Like My Raffen?”“How Do You Like My Raffen?”
“How Do You Like My Raffen?”

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Soldiers Doing What Soldiers Do In Down TimeSoldiers Doing What Soldiers Do In Down Time
Soldiers Doing What Soldiers Do In Down Time

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
“Does The Horsey Have To Shoot A Gun, Too?”“Does The Horsey Have To Shoot A Gun, Too?”
“Does The Horsey Have To Shoot A Gun, Too?”

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
This Tank Must Have A Crew Of Two!This Tank Must Have A Crew Of Two!
This Tank Must Have A Crew Of Two!

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
That Can’t Be A Drug Dog, Can It?That Can’t Be A Drug Dog, Can It?
That Can’t Be A Drug Dog, Can It?

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
A Frontal Assault...A Frontal Assault...
A Frontal Assault...

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
...Is Met By The Same...Is Met By The Same
...Is Met By The Same

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL
Medic!!!Medic!!!
Medic!!!

World War II Reenactment - Rockford IL


27th November 2013

WWII Re inactment
Larry, you did a fantastic job on your blog describing this event in Rockford. I also went to the link you posted for the stories in video on the event, it rounded out your blog as a excellent addition. Good work my man.
27th November 2013

Thanks
Nice to know somebody reads and enjoys the posts. I hope to enjoy them in the future as well!
30th November 2013

I read them.
Hi; Larry I read each one and look forward for new ones. Keep up the good work.

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