Thursday, September 25, 2003

Expedition back in Ky.

Students greet re-enactors with songs and posters

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Capt. Meriwether Lewis, portrayed by Scott Mandrell of Alton, Ill., stands on the bow of a 55-foot-long keelboat as he and a group of re-enactors arrive at Augusta, Ky.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
AUGUSTA - When Meriwether Lewis pulled his keelboat into this riverfront town 200 years ago, he probably wasn't greeted with singing and colorful posters.

"We are Lewis and Clark, Clark and Lewis, doing our best to see what we can find," schoolchildren sang as the crew re-enacting the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark landed in Augusta on Wednesday afternoon. "We are Lewis and Clark, Clark and Lewis, doing our best for all of human kind."

Re-enactors portraying Lewis and his crew as they made their way to Louisville, where Lewis met up with Clark, arrived on replicas of the original boats - a 55-foot keel boat and a 40-foot red pirogue.

About 100 people, including about 60 children from St. Augustine School, lined the riverbank of the historic town to meet the explorers and tour an exhibition barge traveling with the group.

But the re-enactor most children wanted to meet was a 150-pound puppy - Seaman, Lewis' Newfoundland dog.

"He was one of the most important parts of the journey," said 10-year-old Emily Buford, whose mother Karen brought Emily and her siblings as a field trip for the children, who are home schooled.

Karen Buford, of May's Lick, taught her children about the journey by making a board game with spaces like "Swarmed by mosquitoes, lose a turn."

Lewis & Clark trivia challenge
More about the Discovery Expedition
More about Lewis & Clark's historic journey and the bicentennial celebration
Lewis and Clark re-enactor stops
 Today: Augusta, Ky.
 Friday-Tuesday: New Richmond, Ohio
 Tuesday-Oct. 3: Covington, Ky.
 Oct. 4-7: Big Bone Lick State Park, Union, Ky.
 Oct. 8-9: Warsaw, Ky.
The re-enactors are commemorating the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's exploration of the west by retracing the 8,000-mile journey. Following Lewis' trail as recorded in his journals, they left Pittsburgh Aug. 31 and will stop in New Richmond, Covington, Big Bone Lick and Warsaw in the next two weeks.

The re-enactors live much as the crew would have in 1803, with period clothes, food and accommodations - and a few modern conveniences.

Motors on the boats are discreetly tucked away, and coolers are kept in the back of the canvas tents where the crew camps on the riverbank. Lunch of beef jerky and trail mix is eaten out of a brown paper bag with a Zip-lock bag tucked inside.

And a satellite phone provides a quick call to check in at home.

While some re-enactors will go along for all three years of the journey, others like Nick Bergmann of Delhi Township serve for a few weeks at a time.

"I'm a history buff," said Bergmann, who was portraying a boater that Lewis would have hired to help on the river. "When I heard they were doing it, there was no doubt I was going to do this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

Bergmann, 34, who has been traveling with the crew for about a week, will stay on until they get to Covington next week.

"I don't miss any of the high tech," Bergmann said. "I don't miss rush-hour traffic, I don't miss driving down I-75."

Two members of the crew who will travel all three years of the journey are descendants of George Shannon, the youngest member of the original expedition.

Robert Shannon Anderson, 62, the great-great-great nephew of Shannon, and Anderson's grandson Joshua Loftis, 17, are both portraying their ancestors.

Loftis, of Belleville, Ill., graduated from high school two years early and will put off college until 2006 to complete the journey. But walking in his great-great-great-great granduncle's exact footsteps is something he couldn't pass up.

"It's almost scary," Loftis said. "But it's totally awesome."

Loftis, in a white cotton outfit and leather boots, was also the favorite of the 8th grade St. Augustine girls, who thought he looked like teen heartthrob Justin Timberlake.

"Can we hug you," one asked, as she had Loftis sign an autograph, something Loftis' ancestor probably didn't encounter on his journey.


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