Young Blood

By McMARLIN, Shirley | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Young Blood


McMARLIN, Shirley, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Bob Nipar, 70, of Bethel Park has been a historical re-enactor since 1971. He organizes re-enactors for events at Fort Ligonier and portrays a British engineer from the French and Indian War era.

He says his contemporaries, whom he calls “gray beards,” sometimes worry that re-enacting will go the way of the powder horn and the musket ball.

“We didn’t have cell phones and so many other activities to distract us (when we were young),” he says. “There’s so much to do for the kids now that there aren’t so many young people taking it up. We can see it being lost.”

Nipar might have taken heart at the Aug. 5 and 6 re-enactments of the Battle of Bushy Run, at the battlefield in Penn Township, where a number of teens and 20-somethings were intent on keeping history alive.

Some of the young re-enactors say their interest came naturally, growing up in Western Pennsylvania where historical sites abound. Others say they like the camaraderie of the groups. Others want to learn the basic survival skills associated with re-enacting.

Some feel it’s important to remind people of what others sacrificed to found and settle the United States.

For at least a few, it is all of the above.

History made relevant

Growing up in Stahlstown, Brandon Campbell, 25, said his family participated in the Flax Scutching Festival and he went to summer camps at Fort Ligonier.

“I was always a history buff,” he says.

In school, he says he saw the teaching of history “tossed by the wayside. History class was turned into an elective instead of a requirement.”

He’s now a member of Proctor’s Militia, a Westmoreland County-based Revolutionary War re-enactment unit.

Fellow militia member Caleb Holt, 23, of Verona says he had the same experience in school: “I was in AP history with three people in the class.”

Holt said his interest in re-enacting was spurred by a visit to Old Bedford Village with his father when he was 15.

“People aren’t aware of how hard life was for people on the frontier,” he says. “I’m trying to keep that alive. I like re-enacting because it makes you understand the sacrifices and choices people had to make to get their freedom. I feel like the values of our parents and grandparents are going away, like respect for people is going away.

“Some of my co-workers say things like, ‘Oh, you’re going off to play Pocahontas,’” Holt says. “I think it’s sad that people have no interest in the outdoors anymore. I’ve learned a lot of primitive skills that most people don’t know anymore. If you don’t know how to survive, when technology goes, you’re sunk.”

Holt’s girlfriend Crystal Stivason, 22, of Kittanning likes the social aspects of the camp weekends.

She went to her first re-enactment with Holt two years ago in Cook Forest State Park.

“I liked camping, so I said I’d try it out,” she says. “I’m still learning a lot, but I like the camp life. Everyone is a big family, and people are so nice and helpful.”

Looking ahead to military careers

John Harris, 16, and Emily Liska, 17, both of Harrison City and both students at Penn-Trafford High School, have their sights on military careers. …

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