Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the “Progress 2014” section of North Country This Week.
The Fort La Présentation Association, in collaboration with Forsyth’s Rifles, Inc., and other community groups, undertakes activities throughout the year to promote and preserve the history of Ogdensburg and northern St. Lawrence County.
The cooperation makes this stretch of the St. Lawrence Valley a multi-season destination for re-enactors, living history interpreters, educators and historians from Canada and the United States.
“Our 2014 joint activities in February, April and July may be called crowd pleasers, too” said Barbara J. O’Keefe, President of the Fort Association. “The long-running War of 1812 re-enactment in February, the War of 1812 Heritage Talks in April and Founder’s Day Weekend in July draw visitors within an arc curving from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Connecticut.”
The Battle of Ogdensburg to be re-enacted Feb. 22-23 has grown though three decades. Special activities have been added. There is a Saturday street battle, bracketed by youth and adult presentations in the morning and a post-battle concert of period songs, all at the Ogdensburg Public Library. Saturday evening the Winter Ball English Country-Dance, free and open to everyone, brings swirls of color and music to the Ogdensburg Am-Vets.
Now in its sixth year, the War of 1812 Heritage Talks to be held April 26-27 has covered the war from New York harbor to the Ohio Valley, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. A Friday evening concert of traditional music is planned. Three of the seven speakers Saturday are North Country residents who will firmly put the War of 1812 along our river shores. A Friday evening concert of traditional music will be a fundraiser of the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club.
Founder’s Day Weekend, a French and Indian War re-enactment and colonial trade fair, to be held July 19-20, harks back to Ogdensburg’s French colonial roots and the Battle of the Thousand Islands, 1749-1760, and is a favorite among re-enactors and heritage buffs. History was made here, too, when the English and French empires clashed for the last time for control of North America.
“Our efforts help build and sustain the heritage qualities and character of our community,” said Mrs. O’Keefe. “Tourism is economic development. Visitors help businesses thrive and build civic pride when they come, not just for shopping bargains, but also to soak up our history.”
Heritage/cultural tourists and re-enactors are known to stay in a community for as long as four or five days. This is true of those coming for the War of 1812 Heritage Talks and Founder’s Day Weekend. Many arrive on Friday and depart on Monday. They buy accommodation, gas and groceries.
“We have large markets on our doorstep; an hour north Ottawa-Gatineau has more than one-million people and the Island of Montreal two hours to the east has about two-million residents,” Mrs. O’Keefe said. “These populations are literally attached to us by freeway, so not surprisingly we meet many folks from these cities at our events as participants and visitors.”
The Fort Association and its allies are at work building links to markets in Canada and the United States.