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Past and present collide at Founder’s Day


OGDENSBURG — Sometimes, historical re-enactors have what they call an “18th-century moment,” when the present slips away for an instant and they feel as if they are truly a part of history.

“That’s the whole reason for doing this,” said Michael R. Dickinson, Glens Falls, who dressed in Native American makeup and garb as one of many re-enactors at Ogdensburg’s annual Founder’s Day Weekend.

The festivities are part of 52nd annual Ogdensburg Seaway Festival, a two-day event with a host of activities including a craft show, concerts, and a fireworks display tonight.

“It’s become an icon of Ogdensburg,” said Timothy W. Cryderman, re-enactor and second vice president of the Fort de la Presentation board of directors, which organized the event.

Highlights include mock battles on the river and on land, recreating the French and Indian War and the north country’s colonial history.

The battles were held near the site of a long-since demolished fort that passed through the hands of French, British and American troops during the 1700s.

“We think that this really represents the history of the area,” Mr. Cryderman said.

Tents were set up nearby, housing a blacksmith and vendors selling period goods. Founder’s Day drew about 1,500 people last year, according to Mr. Cryderman, a figure he expected to match this year.

The festival has been an Ogdensburg mainstay for over 10 years, drawing re-enactors from all over the northeast, and occasionally as far away as Alaska or Tennessee.

“It’s a wonderful site, the town is really supportive,” said Rebecca J. Cornell, Northfield, Vt.

Cornell is part of the crew of the “Dark and Stormy,” a replica of a small British naval vessel from the 1700s. The boat was constructed after one of the re-enactors received a small replica cannon for Christmas, and decided he needed something to mount it to.

The group spent three years creating the boat, and the cannon is proudly attached to the front.

“We weren’t sure if it was going to float,” Ms. Cornell said, “but it did.”

Mr. Dickinson is part Native American, and travels to dozens of events every year under the name Cheeksaunkun. He has attended Ogdensburg’s Founder’s Day since the beginning.

The festival is one of many that re-enactors travel to every summer.

“I started reenacting when I was about 10,” said Chris A. Stringham, Syracuse. “It’s basically like playing dress-up and war still.”

Although they live in far-flung regions, re-enactors see each other regularly at various events, and use social networking sites to stay in touch during the off season.

“It’s almost more than we communicate with our own families,” said David A. Scalzo, Albany.

The Seaway Festival and Founder’s Day activities continue today, with another naval reenactment at 11 a.m. and a land battle at 1:30 p.m.

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