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River of Time 2015 Transforms Bay City's Riverfront Park

November 1, 2015       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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The end of September was a busy period in Bay City, Michigan. Just a few weeks earlier the Historical Society and the County dug up the John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule that has been buried on the lawn of the County Building 50 years earlier. Now, on September 25-27 the Veteran's Memorial Park on the riverfront was taken over by the annual River of Time encampment.

On Saturday a large group gathered under a tent in the parking lot between City Hall and the Historical Society's Museum to commemorate the City's Sesquicentennial 1865 to 2015. For the celebration, Eric Jylha gave a short history of the area. Ron Bloomfield talked about the opening of the time capsule. Dignitaries like State Representative Charlie Bruner and Mayor Chris Shannon presented proclamations and recognitions.

On the other side of the river re-enactors portrayed the history of the Great Lakes and the country in general for the 26th year. River of Time is one of the largest re-enactments in the region and the only on that covers the entire time-line from French trappers in the 1600's to Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Westward expansion, the World War eras and Vietnam.

Friday is traditionally reserved for schools and classes from all over the area come to view living history. Saturday and Sunday are open to the public. The entire weekend is free. Visitors stroll through the park and stop to learn from experts about how people lived in years past.

Saturday was full of activities including a fly over by early military observation planes. They came in low and made a couple of passes to the delight of everyone. Later the tall ship Appledore sailed up the river to participate in an naval attack against soldiers on shore. The soldiers seemed to be having fun as every era was represented by guys who wanted to shoot their guns. It was noisy and a delight for all.

Highlights of the events are the fife and drum corps that frequently march through the camp. And every hour or so Civil War soldiers fire their cannon across the river. The boom can be heard all over town. The new buildings across the river at Uptown enhanced the boom as the sound echoed back.

Many of the re-enactors are old favorites who have been coming to the rendezvous for years. Others are recent additions. Gale Bereus and his son Drew play the part of French trappers and traders from the 1680 to 1740 period. Their camp included an Indian teepee, birch bark canoe, and blankets covered with trade goods from beads to fishhooks and seeds to axes. The pair have been doing this for a number of years and typically travel to about six events a year. They are usually accompanied by another re-enactor who portrays a Native American.

Drew went on to explain some of the history. "Trappers and traders would bring their goods into the wilderness and bury caches along the way. They'd later come back and dig up some to trade with the native Indians". He went on to say that the teepee would typically have been a lodge provided by Indian's while the traders were there. The collection of trade goods included many true artifacts. "Some of these are 300 years old" he said. Others, like the cases of beads are modern items.

Other re-enactors are familiar faces. Randy Baker, another trapper/trader, drew a crowd to see the big smallmouth bass on his grill. "I got it at a fishing tournament last year. They said this was a small one and were going to toss it to the raccoons. I told them I'd be a raccoon and they gave it to me. I froze it until this weekend." When we came back later lunch was over and all that was left was the head.

River of Time is one of the most popular events of Bay City's busy summer of festivals and events. Folks will take a break for a few months of winter fun until things kick off again with next year's Saint Patrick Day parade. See you then.

Veteran Marine Salutes Flag at Opening Ceremonies

Color Guard Presents flag before a historic array of older flags.

Baby In Blue

TV Reporter interviews re-enactor

The distant past meets the recent past.

Graybeard in Confederate cap.

Bill Badgley takes vintage photo of musicians.

Youngsters get a ride as the puppy climbs all over to get a better look.

WWII re-enactor and son.

Girl Scouts wear uniforms from across the time line.

Lone tent in a prime spot on the river.

Tent cities lined up all over the river front.

Venison on the grill in the morning.

Venison on the grill about ready to eat by lunch.

Blacksmiths forged traditional implements for sale to re-enactors as well as spectators.

Mormon Battalion girls teach sewing in traditional way.

Re-enactor soldiers knew to hold their ears; the crowd reacted a second after the picture was taken.

Civil War era rifled gun looks over river.

Soldiers on the Appledore fire on the shore emplacements during the river battle re-enactment.

Soldiers from every war on shore fire back at Appledore.

Kids scramble over the rocks to pick up spent cartridge cases after riflemen fire.

Randy Baker turns the smallmouth bass that he brought for his lunch.

After Randy Baker's lunch there's little left of the bass.

Honey for sale and early explorer trade goods.

Trade goods typical of an early explorer of the Great Lakes.

Re-enactors represent Vietnam soldiers from the 128th 1st Infantry Division

He said this was very accurate for the Vietnam period.

Drew and his dad Gale Bereus re-enact French trapers from the 1680 to 1740 period.

The trappers brought a large supply of trade goods in their canoes.

Chris French discusses her book about ancestor Lewis Mashue in the Voyageur years.

Mormon Battalion built a model log fort. Small logs were available for kids to try their hand.

Yum! Those ribs will be great after a few hours over the fire.

Typical pack items of a soldier in the 1898-1902 overseas expansion period.

Jim MacKinnon talks about the in the 1898-1902 overseas expansion period and
the Spanish-American war through the Panama Canal Treaty.

Perfect way to spend a beautiful September afternoon.

Doesn't matter the period you're re-enacting, Warm September afternoons are perfect for a nap.

WWII Camp including vintage Jeeps.

During the River of Time, a number of people gathered between City Hall and the Museum to
commemorate Bay City's Sesquicentennial 1865-2015.

The always popular rootbeer stands had a long line all day.

River of Time General Store

A beauty from the frontier period.

Sunbeams light a camp as the afternoon wanes.

Trombley House garden with fall veggies. has covered the River of Time since 2003.
Take any of these links for prior year coverage:

2018.a, 2018.b
2017.a, 2017.b, 2017.c,
2015, 2014, 2013,
2012, 2011, 2010, 2009,
2008, 2008, 2008, 2008,
2007, 2007,
2006, 2006,
2005, 2005, 2005,
2004, 2003,

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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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