Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Re-Enactors Honored for History Effort

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Re-Enactors Honored for History Effort

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

They've "brought" George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and other founding fathers to Jacksonville. As a result, it's made history come to life each year for about 1,600 fifth-graders in Duval County public and private schools. And that's for 12 years running.

The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Florida recently won a national award for its Historic Re-enactor Program. It received the national society's coveted Lamar Award for Excellence in the Historical Activities category.

The presenters have studied their characters for years, reading everything they can about their personalities, their histories and the culture in which they lived, said Winfield Duss, the Florida chapter's president. In Jacksonville, the re-enactors do a 45-minute interactive presentation and then answer questions from the students.

"It is like stepping back in time and being able to question a founding father - from the name of their childhood pet to the back story behind a treaty they signed," Duss said. "... The depth of their knowledge is impressive."

The Roger L. and Rochelle S. Main Charitable Trust underwrites the performances. There are four school programs over two days in the Main Library auditorium, a dinner theater presentation for the Dames and their guests and a meeting program. Duval schools' history department coordinates the reservations, and there's always a waiting list, Duss said. The Dames arrange for the speakers and provide volunteers.

To prepare, the Dames do a book review, and the students participate in an essay contest with the re-enactors awarding certificates to the winners on stage.

"We get feedback from teachers that the children leave with a much deeper understanding of the people and issues that shaped our country and an excitement about history that gets lost in today's textbooks," Duss said.

On Jan. 20-21, the Dames are bringing back Dean Malissa as George Washington, she said.

Here's more good news:

- Bank of America volunteers helped Feeding Northeast Florida distribute 778 turkeys to 22 agencies in five counties. …

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