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Military history brought to life at Pheasant Run

Austin Skiera, left, and James "Jed" Turton on Sunday play a game of checkers in their Civil War encampment during the Military History Fest at Pheasant Run Resort.
Austin Skiera, left, and James "Jed" Turton on Sunday play a game of checkers in their Civil War encampment during the Military History Fest at Pheasant Run Resort.

ST. CHARLES – In an encampment intended to resemble a dugout in World War I France, Jeff Fronczak and Jeremiah Moore-Moauro spent the weekend at the ninth annual Military History Fest performing short skits that demonstrated a gas attack.

Though they portrayed death, Moore-Moauro said they informed visitors to Pheasant Run Resort that, while war can be necessary, nothing about it should be glorified.

The men, who started the 20th Century Marine nonprofit last year, view themselves not as reenactors but as educators who promote and preserve the history of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1900 to 1999.

"They don't teach this stuff in school anymore," Fronczak said.

"But that's where we come in," Moore-Moauro said.

The Military History Fest featured 13 other interactive encampments, which ranged from the Knights Templar to World War II. Participants wore period costumes and, in some instances, ate food from the period they represented.

"It's not plastic. It's all real," organizer Michael Bollow said of the food at the Roman tavern encampment.

The three-day festival also included workshops, seminars, performances, a scavenger hunt for children and more than 200 vendors selling such items as Roman swords, paratrooper helmets and period clothing.

About 1,500 people attended the event, Bollow said, describing it as the biggest turnout yet.

"Pheasant Run is a perfect location," he said, noting this was the festival's second year there.

Formerly known as Reenactor Fest, the Military History Fest was created to give reenactors a chance to socialize with each other during the off-season, Bollow said. He said organizers changed the name so it would have a broader appeal.

It is always held the first weekend of February, he said.

Sunday, crowds gathered around encampments as participants gave demonstrations. Acting as though their camp was under fire, Revolutionary War reenactors responded with simulated canon fire.

Lynn Borge of Villa Park and Sheila Horne of Woodridge whiled away the time in their encampment – 1574 Fort of Queen Elizabeth – playing tables, a game now known as backgammon.

Horne, who went by the name Catherine Carey Lady Howard Baroness of Effingham, was also working on her next costume.

"It will take me a month just to do the embroidery," Horne said, adding the dress will take another month to sew.

Because not a lot of clothing exists from the Elizabethan period, she said, "a lot is guesswork," particularly the decorations.

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