It's 'Adults playing Army' this weekend at the fairgrounds
Everybody has a hobby. Some people collect stamps. Some people have gardens. And some people crawl across the ground on their stomachs and point guns at other people.
That's what the reenactors of the World War II Historical Reenactor's Society do. It's a hobby, says reenactor Jon Boorom, for "history nerds." And he's one of them.
Boorom is the go-to guy for this weekend's World War II Reenactment, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Dakota City Heritage Village on the Dakota County Fairgrounds. The weekend's event is being planned, in part, as a recognition of Armed Forces Day on Saturday.
The reenactors will come to represent different camps from around the world. There will be men impersonating soldiers from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Poland and just about any other country that was involved in World War II. They'll show up with their uniforms, their rifles, their tents and all their other goodies. On Saturday and Sunday, they'll pull out their toys.
"It's a hobby, just like any other hobby," said Boorom. "It's a lot of guys who have these big collections and interest in history and World War II.
"It's adults playing 'Army,' I guess," he said.
That means it's fun. But it's also educational. The uniforms aren't costumes. They're actual uniforms these men have collected for the specific purpose of authenticity. The camps they will set up are meant to be an educational tool for visitors -- to show as well as possible what an actual war camp may have looked like during WWII.
The uniforms aren't the only things that are authentic. All of the reenactors will have to start their day Saturday by going through a safety and authenticity scan. All units will be inspected prior to the event. It's the little things, Boorom said, that make all the difference when it comes to these reenactments. Hair cuts, the style of eyeglasses and all of the equipment is supposed to be reflective of the World War II era will all be examined.
"We want to make sure all the reenactors who are there look as close to the real soldiers they're playing as possible," Boorom said. "We're there to educate people. We want to be as close as we can get to what those soldiers were living like."
Most of the firearms are real, though there are a few pretty good replicas out there. Regardless, each firearm used during the reenactments will be carefully screened before each day begins to make sure there is no live ammunition in it, and to make sure it properly discharges -- just a simple measure to make sure the public and the reenactors are safe.
"We've all been trained in firearm safety, and have been doing this for a long time," Boorom said. "Some weapons are dummy weapons that are just there for display, but for the most part, we just check to make sure the weapons are all safe."
A history of
Boorom has been doing reenactments since he was a kid. In fact, his whole family used to do Civil War reenactments. When he moved to Minnesota in 2002, Boorom started volunteering at Fort Snelling, doing reenactments of Minnesota's early days.
One weekend, Fort Snelling hosted a World War II reenactment. Some of his friends had recently started doing reenactments from that era, so Boorom gave it a try. He's been amassing his own personal collection of World War II artifacts ever since.
The reenactments are spread out over the course of each day, at locations throughout the village. About 10:30 a.m., there will be a weapons demonstration by the fire barn. An infantry demonstration is scheduled for noon at the same location, and a battle between the Americans and Germans is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Each demo will run 10-20 minutes, Boorom said.
Additionally, beginning at 1 p.m., several World War II veterans will share their experience in Ahlberg Hall. This includes Women's Airforce Service Pilot Liz Strohfus, as well as Yogi Pusch, Ken Kruege, Lee Burtman, Earl H. Hall, Joe Fitzharris and Lt. Col. Lou Martin.
Each morning will open at 10 a.m with a flag raising by the Farmington VFW Color Guard. The reenactments will continue until 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to check out military vehicles, including a Blackhawk helicopter (Saturday only).
The weekend is scheduled as an observance of Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 15.