How Re-Enactors Prepare for a Civil War Battle

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Byline: Kate Grusich Daily Herald Staff Writer

Re-creation more than a play

Next weekend, history will come vibrantly to life when nearly 800 actors bring the Civil War to the Lake County Discovery Museum near Wauconda.

The 10th annual Civil War Days, sponsored by the museum, is the largest of its kind in the state, organizers say.

While most in the area know of the event's popularity, what they don't know is the time and energy spent creating a successful depiction of one of the nation's most tumultuous events.

For the actors taking part in the two-day event, their role is not just a hobby, it's a passion.

"This is a way to learn history that you can't get from a dry book," said Elburn resident Mike Millette, an actor and choreographer of the event. "You can't intuitively pick up things about the war without experiencing it. You don't hear the noise and smell the smoke the cannons generate. It's an amazing experience."

The re-enactment will take place at the Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda on July 7 and 8.

As a group of ladies in authentic dress stood fanning themselves in the muggy heat Tuesday, a roaring cannon filled the air with smoke.

Excitement built as a group of Confederate-dressed soldiers hastily reloaded, ready to blast another round.

The cannon display Tuesday was a preview of the upcoming 10th Annual Civil War Days, which will be held at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Lake County on July 7 and 8.

People who visit the Civil War Days, held at the Lake County Discovery Museum near Wauconda, will witness a realistic depiction of one of the nation's most tumultuous events.

What they might not see, however, is all of the behind-the- scenes work, the hours and time spent to pull off a successful re- enactment.

"I've been doing this event for about seven years now," said Mike Millette, an actor as well as choreographer of the event. "We started rehearsing last August. We had a committee of the whole meeting to recap what we did right, what we did wrong ... I've probably put in about 50 hours on this."

Millette, who works full time as a civil engineer for Lombard, was joined Tuesday by nearly 15 other actors, who all take their roles as living history interpreters seriously. For many, the acting isn't just a hobby, it's a passion.

"This is the best thing on the planet," said Crystal Lake resident David Rydin, while toting a 13-pound rifle. …