Fort Massac Encampment brings in crowds

A local tradition many of you enjoy with your families is underway. The Fort Massac Encampment features reenactments, games and food to show you what life was like in the 1700s and early 1800s. 

The event is expected to bring between 100,000 and 200,000 people to Metropolis, Illinois, even with a closure to one of its major attractions.

Jan Paul Donelson travels from Louisville to Metropolis each year to give others a lesson our nation’s history.

"They can touch and feel the history," Donelson said.

He says when he first started going to the event in 2003, the fort had just opened to the public to tour.

"All the candle lights, and the lanterns, and everything. It was just a mind blowing experience. It really transported it back to a different time," Donelson said.

The fort has been closed for the past six years because of structural problems. The park hasn’t been able to fix it, because of the state’s spending freeze.
"Where it does affect is education days, because kids would go in and see how they live and how they fix their food," said Fort Massac State Park Site Superintendent Chris McGinness.

On Friday, 3,000 students from local schools were able to tour the event for Education Day. McGinness says the park has sent up tents this year around the barracks so kids can get the learning experience.

McGinness says a drop in attendance isn’t a concern, with up to 200,000 people expected to show up.

"This isn’t an ideal situation, but it certainly gives the public an understanding of what this fort and location meant," Donelson said.

The park fixed bridges around the fort, so it was able to bring the fence around it down. For the first time since it’s been closed, people will now be able to walk around the fort area.

Locals are taking advantage of the crowds, setting up yards sales all over town. Amanda Dassing says it’s become a tradition for her family. She was up until 2 a.m. pricing everything for her yard sale. 

"It is the thing to do to get rid of anything you have that you have stored up. There are yard sales everywhere, and people will literally just park and walk," Dassing said.

Dassing says she usually makes $400 to $500. The Greater Metropolis Convention & Visitors Bureau says Encampment brings $2 million to $3 million into the local economy.

It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday, it begins at 9 a.m. with a church service.

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