Rendezvous is Jackson's largest
JACKSON -- Eight years ago, the Fort Belmont Rendezvous began with a dream to teach the public about the history of trapping and fur trading along the Des Moines River near Jackson, and over the weekend, the event attracted its largest contingent ever of rendezvous participants.
Clad in clothing typical of that worn during the fur trading days of yore, rendezvous hobbyists from across Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota shared their talents for such things as rope making, black powder rifle shooting, off-loom beading, trapping and tomahawk tossing during the two day event at Jackson's Fort Belmont.
Jeff Christensen, the mastermind behind the local rendezvous, said the event is for history's sake.
"In Jackson, at one time, about a mile north of here, we had traders along the river," he said. "The campers represent the different fur traders."
The event, which was free to the public, encouraged guests to look and listen, and ask questions about how things were done during the heyday of Minnesota's fur trading industry.
"Each one of these buckskinners have something they specialize in," said Christensen. "They are more than willing -- they give 110 percent to try to answer the questions historically."
Throughout the day Saturday, there were plenty of activities for visitors to both watch and try -- from the black powder rifle shoot Saturday morning to the tomahawk toss later that afternoon. Kids' and women's games on Saturday included everything from a race to hang clothes on the clothesline to a moccasin throw and fry pan throw.
"The wife throws the fry pan and the moccasins at the husband, and hopefully he moves and doesn't get hit," Christensen said.
The children's games included a stilt race, a hoop race and a gold rush, which involved candy hidden in loose hay.
Several of the campsites took part in the Dutch oven cook-off that began at 9 a.m. Saturday. Dishes, prepared throughout the day in large cast-iron pots hung over hot coals, ranged from fried chicken to corn bakes, cobblers, breads and other items, Christensen said.
The Fort Belmont Rendezvous is as much an event to educate the public as it is about rendezvous hobbyists getting together and enjoying a weekend outdoors.
"We're just buckskinners getting together to have fun," said Christensen. "We go quite a ways out (to other rendezvous) when the gas prices aren't so high."
Lorna and Dave Kremin, known at the rendezvous as Ruffles and Trapper, are on the road to rendezvous about 32 weekends per year. They've attended the one at Fort Belmont ever since it began eight years ago.
The Newell couple brought along a tent filled with wares -- everything from tomahawk handles and snapping turtle shells to ornate beadwork Lorna Kremin does to keep busy both during rendezvous weekends and at home.
Kremin learned off-loom beading from a fellow rendezvous participant, and now keeps busy fulfilling orders she gets for her work. The tedious bead work takes two hours just to make one square-inch pattern.
"There's 187 beads per square inch," she said. "They call them seed beads. I've spilled them on the ground before and they don't grow."
Kremin said she enjoys the rendezvous at Fort Belmont because the people are friendly.
"We get to go to a family reunion where we love our family," she said with a laugh.