By Jasmine Willis
NUNDA — For the first time ever some reenactors came to the Christmas in Nunda to set up a Valley Forge Encampment by the local library.
On Dec. 10 some local reenactors John McCallum and Casey Cotton came with Leroy-native Dan Goeltz dressed as the American Revolutionary War soldiers. No red coats at this camp. McCallum has been a reenactor for over 30 years now. He enjoys the history of Civil War, French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. His social studies teacher got him involved in reenacting.
“I got my start being a reenactor for the French and Indian War at Fort Niagara. I am a Mohawk reenactor and dress up in full authentic attire. I was always fascinated with history and my social studies teacher got me involved in reenacting,” he said. “I also volunteer at the Nunda Historical Society who had us come down for this. I am hoping we can set up again here in the summer for a little battle reenactment. We have plenty of space to do that here.”
The winter camp had a real wooden fire pit that kept everything nice and warm. There was a wooden barrel of ale, or moonshine, or water. Several lanterns with real candles lit inside. The tents had authentic wooden framed cots the soldiers would sleep in. There was blunder bust rifles. The replica of a Betsy Ross Flag (1776) hung in the camp. McCallum’s wife found that historic gem. The 13 stars in the circle represented the 13 colonies in the American Revolutionary War. McCallum added the tent he bunked in is the same kind of tent Gen. George Washington would’ve bunked in at the time.
Cotton has been a reenactor for eight years now. He grew up with McCallum. Cotton talked about how everyone trades and sells in these camps. Being a reenactor is very costly. The uniforms are hundreds of dollars and need to be maintained. The tents can be up to a thousand dollars. The weapons and other historically accurate items can cost hundreds of dollars as well. If someone is about to retire from the reenactment business, they usually will sell to others in the camp.
“We help each other and get everyone going. This really becomes a family. We are all in this together,” Cotton said.
Goeltz has been a reenactor for 15 years now. He got McCallum into the Civil War Reenactment. Goeltz favorite historic wars are World War Two and Vietnam War. He can’t do any Vietnam War Reenactments since the weapons needed for that are still being used.
“This really is a family. People start doing this when they are eight weeks old. We have people who are doing this in their 90s. We have family camps for the wives and children. The children dress in the right clothes and play all of the old-fashioned games of the time period,” he said. “We have different roles at each camp. I have never had it be the same at any other event. I have my first ever tent at this event that was purchased for me by my father. It is 30 years old and still in very good shape. The more traditional kind of cots the soldiers slept in gave them horrible back injuries sleeping on X-shaped metal framed beds.”
Goeltz was a reenactor at Gettysburg, Pa. where the men are in the thick of combat. He recalled having a supernatural experience that left him still feeling haunted.
“I don’t know if you believe in reincarnation. I felt led to this spot at Picket’s Charge. I felt like it was something familiar to me. Like this was the place I had died. I couldn’t explain it, but I just fell down and had tears in my eyes. I have never been back there since,” he said.
“You feel the souls of those men when you are there, but this felt different. This felt like I was being led there by something I couldn’t explain. You hear about other reenactors having supernatural experiences there. They will be talking to soldiers right next to them that are not even there. There happens to be a lot of research into this paranormal occurrence. You will be on this historic battlefield and see orbs all over the place. You will lose yourself in the battle as you are loading up your rounds.”
Goeltz said many have had experiences like this at the famous Devil’s Den which is a rocky climb.
These men look out for one another on the battlefield as if it were a real battle. They put powder on the new reenactors face to tell the others in the camps this is a newbie. It makes the others aware this person is learning and may make some mistakes. They also know to watch out for them and help them along the way.
“I will never forget the one thing that really blew my mind. I was at the Geneseo AirShow and there were these reenactors who had captured some German soldiers. They were trying to get intel off these soldiers and speaking in German. I was completely blown away by it. I went up and told them that I am German and speak a little bit of it. I told them I was really impressed. Everything was so perfect and realistic,” he said.
The Nunda Christmas was filled with the old-fashioned wonder of the season. There were wagon rides, food vendors, decorated storefronts, homes lit with holiday cheer, and the feeling that when you are here you are home. The Seager-Werner Post 333 was open to the public and had some fascinating local veterans history inside.