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Day campers bring Ligonier's history alive

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:04 p.m.

History surpassed the ages recently, as young Fort Ligonier day-campers brought to life a re-enactment of 18th-century infantry operations. All 26 campers, ranging from ages 6 to 12, participated. Family and friends of the history enthusiasts gathered to watch the performance.

“It's a lot of fun to see the children get immersed in history,” said Jenna Thomas a graduate student at Kent State and a volunteer summer intern at the fort. “It's very endearing to see them embrace the subject.”

Each day of the week-long camp, attendees took part in hands-on activities that revolved around the daily historic theme. Students were given a tour and background of the fort, were visited by a blacksmith and created name tags based on Native American necklaces. One highlight of the week was a grenade water balloon battle, which buttressed learning about the Grenadiers special elite force.

Friday's re-enactment began with an introduction by Jeff Graham, who is the re-enactment coordinator. He lauded his young colonists and soldiers.

“The scary thing is, my elementary kids pick up the operation faster than my adult recruits,” he said.

Mary Manges, who heads and organizes the camp and works as the fort's director of education, spoke to the focus on engaging the campers.

“This makes the kids realize that history is more than a school subject; there is so much to it,” she said. “Here they get to live it; it's a very valuable experience.”

After the re-enactment, campers joined family and friends for an outdoor picnic lunch on the fort's lawn.

Those who attended the camp were certainly not disappointed. Ben Balthaser, who played the role of the Lieutenant in Command, said, “I learned lots of stuff,” he said. “I learned how to load a cannon.”

Ann Donovan, Ben's mother, agreed. “It was a great experience. Every night he'd come home with something exciting.”

Ben's mother and father Lynn were in attendance for the re-enactment.

Fellow camper Colton Nagg of Clarksburg, was quite exuberant about his time.

“I thought camp was amazing,” Nagg, 8, said. “I learned all about the fort; how the fort was built. I'm a big fan of WWI, WWII and the Civil and the Revolutionary Wars.” Colton played a color bearer in the performance and was joined by his family.

Manges stated that she was thrilled with the enrollment numbers and is looking forward to more camp successes.

“It's wonderful to see how it affects the kids,” she said. “Even if they don't like history, they find that it is fun, exciting and enjoyable.”

The camp will be held again in July, and spaces are still available. The camp is offered to children ages 6 through 14. Registrations are taken by phone or email. More information can be provided by contacting education@fortligonier.org or call 724-238-9701.

Rebecca Ridinger is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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