A bugle call sounded in the distance as horses whinnied and women in long, muslin dresses and bonnets strolled among the dozens of white tents camped at Historic Fort Hays.
Despite temperatures already in the upper 80s late Saturday morning, a group of soldiers clad in heavy time-period clothing stood around a campfire, heating water to clean their rifles.
“When you can see it, hold a rifle or drink a tin mug of coffee, it just brings history to life,” said Jonathon Goering of Wichita, who was one of many volunteers from a Wichita-based history group representing the Eighth Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry, which served during the Civil War.
More than 100 volunteers — including many historical actors — are gathering at the fort this weekend to celebrate 150 years of local history.
Events will continue Sunday, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and continuing through 2:15 p.m. A full schedule can be found at HDNews.net.
Many of the actors, including Goering’s group, will be braving the heat to actually camp in the historically accurate, small white tents pitched on the fort grounds.
Notable figures from the 1800s also were on hand to discuss life at Historic Fort Hays and mingle with the public. Actors portraying Buffalo Bill Cody, California Joe and General George and Elizabeth Custer could be spotted, as well as Abraham Lincoln.
Ken Weidner of Copeland offered a different perspective of history by portraying Whirlwind the Native American. His demonstration of Southern Cheyenne life included a large, historically accurate tipi with an elaborate array of skins, tools and saddles the tribe would have used for life on the prairie.
Weidner is not a Native American, but has a passion for history and believes that side of the story needs to be represented. There are only about six historical actors that portray the history of natives in the Great Plains, he said.
Weidner said he is fascinated by how the natives survived off of the land, and has learned how to create tribal saddles, which have been used in the production of a few movies and television shows, he said.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years now, the Indian Wars of the Southern Cheyenne,” he said. “The horse tack is my favorite stuff. … I’m about the only guy making saddles, that I know of.”
The weekend also included horse drills by the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldiers re-enactors, and an artillery demonstration by a group of volunteers from Fort Larned. Five soldiers from that fort demonstrated how the soldiers would have fired a cannon at enemy forces.
A medical tent also was set up to portray a Civil War field hospital, which would have been just a few miles behind the battle line to care for injured soldiers until they could be sent, usually by train, to the nearest hospital.
Several volunteers with the Kansas-based Frontier Brigade Medical Unit portrayed doctors, nurses and stewards, as they showcased the primitive medical equipment and a horse-drawn covered wagon that functioned as an ambulance.
“It’s important for people to see what our country went through and the struggles,” said Richard Goering, who portrayed a steward. “We’re having struggles now, but we really had them back then. You learn stuff from re-enacting that you don’t from books or watching movies.”