What would the Johnny Appleseed Festival be without the pioneer clothing, tents, and the occasional cannon booming in the background? Well, it wouldn’t be the same, that’s certainly true!
Abraham Lincoln (represented frequently by re-enactor Fritz Klein) wanders the festival grounds. At times, you’ll find Robert E. Lee or Johnny Appleseed, too, walking the premises. Each one is worth a wave and a hello, and you can get some very interesting snapshots to put in your scrapbook.
But the real history portion comes into play when you visit the historical re-enactors down by the river bank, on the eastern side of the festival grounds. This is where history buffs meet history enthusiasts and get to discuss anything related to the past!
Re-enactors at the Festival
Historical re-enactors set up camp here and live the life of the period they are representing. Cooking, mending, and demonstrations (including cannon firings) are all related to their particular field of expertise. And you’re welcome to watch – unless the tent flaps are shut. Then, someone may be taking a nap, so please do not disturb!
Identifying the different periods of historical representation is best done by looking at the flags posted by the tents, and the clothing of the re-enactors. If your abilities at heraldry (reading flag symbols) is a little rusty, then just ask – they’re very happy to chat with you!
Here’s a rundown of which groups frequent the Johnny Appleseed Festival. You never know which ones you’ll see.
A very regular sight is uniforms and attire worn near the time of the Civil War. Look for blue short coats and trousers, kepis (i.e. squashed down baseball caps), slouch hats (like a cowboy hat), and maybe some elaborate officer’s braid on coats. Women here wear large hoop skirts and dresses with gathered sleeves. Uniforms tend to be mostly blue, but you may see a sprinkling or flood of gray, depending on the year and who was available to get to the festival.
These are War of 1812 uniforms. In this photo, provided by Historic Fort Wayne, you can clearly see the white trousers and tall black hats of the American soldiers who would have been in this area in the early, pre-state days.
War of 1812
Sometimes clothing worn during the War of 1812 is not as visible. The War of 1812 military uniform is distinguished most easily by the colors – deep blue jackets and white, long trousers. The hats, too, are very distinctive: shakos with tall pompoms (i.e. round, high hats with fuzzy plumes sprouting from the crown, like a drum major’s hat). Women in 1812 dress may wear poke bonnets and flowing, long dresses.
This Revolutionary War re-enactor has a three-corner hat, blue coat, and dark breeches; General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's troops would have worn a similar style when they came to this region in 1794. This photo was provided by Historic Fort Wayne.
If you're looking for Revolutionary War attire, you’ll see the easy-to-identify three-cornered hats, tailed jackets, and (usually) white or tan breeches with buckled shoes. Women wear mob caps and dresses, sometimes with an apron.
Explore History at the Johnny Appleseed Festival
Whichever group you happen to see at the Festival, stop to explore a little bit. Maybe you’ll hear a story about Abraham Lincoln. Or learn about military regulations regarding sleeping on a watch. Or maybe you’ll see a soldier using a sock as an emergency potholder, to shift a hot skillet on the coals. Life happened, both then and now, and it’s always interesting to wonder at the skills they had and the unique challenges they had to face.
The Johnny Appleseed Festival takes place September 16 and 17 at the Johnny Appleseed Park and Municipal Campground. Go to the festival's website to learn more.
This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated. Last Updated: July 2023