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Ohio War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission  

Creating a Good Relationship Between Re-enactors and Your Site

Rick Finch- Director, Fort Meigs: Ohio’s War of 1812 Battlefield

This hand-out was developed for a presentation to the Ohio Local History Alliance Region One conference in 2010. It was intended as a generic set of guidelines for working with re-enactors of all time periods, but it can help specifically when discussing whether to host a re-enactment for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Know what you want before you start

  • Ask yourself why you are using re-enactors? That is, how will this enhance your goals, objectives, or mission?
  • Have an idea of what you want from the re-enactors and be able to convey that to them in planning meetings
  • Re-enactors, living historians, & historical interpreters, know the difference & who is best to meet your needs
  • Other factors to consider:
                   How many re-enactors do you want?
                   Is this an “open” event or an “invitation-only” event?
                   What time period do you want?
                   How many re-enactors can your site reasonably accommodate?
                   Will they be the focal point of the event or a "side show to the big show?"
                   Do you have liability insurance or can the re-enactors provide it?

Get to know the re-enactors and get them involved

  • Get to know your re-enacting "leaders" and get them involved in the planning process
  • Have one or two go-to re-enactors that know the current "politics" and can help you get things done

Be prepared to relinquish some control... but don’t expect the re-enactors to do everything

  • You must invest staff time
  • Spell out who is responsible for what duties such as registration,
                   battle planning, schedule of events, publicity, & camping logistics
  • Utilize the re-enactor military chain of command to your advantage
  • Be flexible and try new things they suggest

Pre-event Preparation

  • Have a user-friendly registration form
  • Have a clearly marked registration area for the event
  • Re-enactors, living historians, & historical interpreters, know the difference & who is best to meet your needs
  • Have a welcome packet to hand out at registration. Things many include:
                   Thank you letter
                   Map with local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, groceries, etc.
                   Event guidelines and ground rules
                   Schedule of events [that includes public programs and re-enactor logistics]
                   Safety guidelines
                   Site rules or regulations that you feel the re-enactors need to know or follow
                   Garbage bag
                   Liability waiver

To-dos for the event

  • Make sure you have:
                   Water, straw, firewood, and plenty of clean toilets [in convenient locations]
                   A serve weather emergency plan
                   A first aid area
                   A lost child plan
                   Staff on site 24/7 or if not have an emergency number
  • Make sure you thank the re-enactors for coming out
  • Give them perks, if you can
  • Daily meetings are a must
  • Feedback and review is a must


  • Many re-enactors care deeply about sites so make sure you treat your re-enactors with respect and professionalism.
  • Consider re-enactors as guest volunteers & hold them to the same standards but also treat with them the same
                   respect as paid or non-paid staff

Other helpful hints

  • Make sure your event doesn’t conflict with an established event
  • Once you have a date, stick with it
  • Start small and build up to a large event [if that is what you’re after]
  • Stay determined. Re-enactors are notorious for not promptly replying or registering, especially for new events
                   or groups they don’t know