Eighteenth-century re-enactment moved to late summer
By Bernie Schmitt
The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous, a re-enactment of 18th Century frontier life in the Old Northwest and a Vincennes tradition, will not take place during the Memorial Day weekend.
It has been rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23, at the Old French Commons in Vincennes. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The postponement of the 44th annual Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous is due to social distancing concerns and travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers did not want to cancel the event.
Decision was unanimous
“The decision to postpone was unanimous,” said Mark Hill, marketing director for the Rendezvous. “We have such a rich tradition here and it’s such a part of the community. But, there was no way we could have it during Memorial Day weekend.”
Organizers contacted the soldier re-enactment groups, merchants and traders, and food vendors with regard to the decision, and most all agreed they could be here and take part in the event come August. Re-enactment groups are busy in the spring and in the fall, so the August date was available to many.
“We also checked with the Chamber and with the Tourism Bureau in finding a date,” Hill said. “We always have the Watermelon Fest and the Vincennes Germanfest in August. We decided that the third weekend in August would be a good window for us.”
There are some things that will be different, such as a holiday Monday for visitors and re-enactors to travel. Vincennes University will be in session, eliminating residence hall rooms that are sometimes rented to re-enactors if hotels are full (and they usually are). In what is a serendipitous turn of events, the Indianapolis 500 which usually takes place on Sunday before Memorial Day, will take place on Aug. 23, the same Sunday as Rendezvous.
“It’s like that every year in May,” Hill said. “It will be like that this year, only in August.”
Organizers and volunteers have plenty of time to prepare, Hill said, and time to remove the seven or eight large trees that fell during the terrible wind storm that swept through Vincennes on April 8.
Hill said there are commitments from about two-thirds of the merchants, traders, and others who come every year to the Rendezvous in May. There will likely be other commitments too, as word of the rescheduled date is advertised.
The theme for the 2020 Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous is “early British influence” in Indiana and the Northwest Territory. The event medallion features British Lt. Gov. Edward Abbott, who was the commander at Fort Sackville before Col. Henry Hamilton (whom surrendered to George Rogers Clark).
Rendezvous buttons will likely go on sale at banks and other local institutions in July, Hill said. The button honors early British influence in representing the King’s 8th Regiment — the British army regiment that was in Vincennes and the Northwest Territory in the late 1700s.
The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous has been known to draw upwards of 20,000 to 30,000 visitors during Memorial Day weekend, depending on weather. The change in dates may affect visitors some, but Hill said those who enjoy the event will find their way to Vincennes.
“I think we’ll have plenty of people here,” Hill said. “And maybe at that time of year it won’t be as humid as it sometimes is. It has been such a well-attended community event for 43 years. I think people will be excited that we’re having it.”