By Colleen Jurkiewicz Dorman
Although its been twelve long years, most people in Ozaukee County remember the Crossroads Rendezvous. Every third weekend in May for fifteen years, from 1991 to 2006, Peninsula Park in Saukville filled with canvas tents and the sounds of cannon and musket fire. Fry bread was eaten, birch bark canoes floated along the Milwaukee River, and people experienced a little bit of Wisconsin's past at this historic juncture of two ancient Native American trails: the old Decorah Road (now Highway 33) and the old Green Bay Road (now Highways O and W). Finally, on that same third weekend of May, in that very same park, the tents will rise again as the Crossroads Rendezvous makes its triumphant return to Saukville, and to the crossroads for which it was named.
Event Organizers Sara Dahmen and Mary Boyle have a lot in common: they're both from Port Washington, they're both mothers, they're both writers, and they're both historical reenactors.
Boyle and her husband, Brendan, have been members of La Compagnie Franche de la Marine du Fort la Joquiere, a unit of French Marines based in Wisconsin in the mid-eighteenth century, for over 20 years, and have traveled as far as New York in the name of reenacting the French & Indian War. Their two children, Molly and Eamon, ages 15 and 12, were born into the hobby; in fact, Molly's first event was the Crossroads Rendezvous in 2003, just as it was her parents' first event back in 1996.
Dahmen, on the other hand, is relatively new to the hobby. While doing research for a novel she was writing, she became interested in historic cookware and wanted to find out how it was made. She met Bob Bartelme, a tinsmith and reenactor from West Bend, about two years ago, and he brought Dahmen, her husband John, and their three young children to an event; the rest, as they say, is history.
This past October, the two women met up to discuss the lack of local reenactments and how they could start one but, instead of starting one, Boyle wondered if it might be easier just to bring one back.
"I sent the Saukville Area Historical Society an email to see if they might entertain the idea and, the next thing I knew, I was making a presentation about bringing back the event to their members. They were so supportive and excited, we decided we might be able to actually pull the event off in May, and we have," Boyle said, "...by the skin of our teeth!"
"Luckily, [former organizers] Anne [Kertscher] and Donna [D'Angelo] saved everything, and they were happy to share it and take an advisory role," Dahmen explained. "We just joined the Historical Society and jumped right into putting it together. If it hadn't been for the $5,000.00 Tourism Grant from the Saukville Chamber of Commerce, we wouldn't have been able to do it. We're going with just the necessities, but it's all coming together nicely for a first-year event."
Boyle noted that the event will not be exactly as it was: "Not only will it be smaller, because of the short time-frame and small budget we had to pull it together, but there will be a far greater emphasis on education. We specifically reached out to reenactors who are passionate about living history and who wanted to participate in the School Day on Friday; they also had to fit into our theme, which is the Fur Trade in Wisconsin from 1750 to 1840 – which makes it particularly well-suited for 4th graders, who've been studying Wisconsin history all year long. We'll have military groups from the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, and possibly the War of 1812, as well as Tradesmen, such as tinsmiths, blacksmiths and weavers, and there will be voyageurs and Native American representatives, too."
While the Friday is a short day designed for students, the public is also welcome between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.; however, there is no parking at Peninsula Park, and close street parking is very limited. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors are encouraged to park at U-Haul Moving & Storage, located at 835 E. Green Bay Ave. in the former Piggly Wiggly store, and take the free shuttle to and from the park. The hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Sunday. No pets are allowed at the event. Adult are $5; Armed Forces, Veterans, and Seniors are $4, Children under 17 are $2, and Under 2 are Free.
Donations are still being accepted; local businesses who make a donation before May 1st will receive recognition in the event programs, as well as on the Crossroads Rendezvous Facebook page and website. For more information, contact Sara or Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website: www.crossroadsrendezvous.org.
The organizers would like to thank the great local businesses that have already supported the event; particularly: the Riverview Inn, Port Washington State Bank, Schmit Bros. Auto, and FPZ, Inc.
About the Author
Colleen Jurkiewicz Dorman, like the organizers of the Crossroads Rendezvous,, is also a writer and a mother from Port Washington; and, with a toddler in the house, she spends plenty of time pretending and playing dress up (but with an infant to contend with, she won't be running off to a reenactment anytime soon!). You can read more from Colleen on the Milwaukee Moms Blog and other fine, local publications.