history buffs will celebrate the arrival fur brigades

Re-enactors and history buffs will celebrate the arrival of the fur brigades this weekend in historic Fort Langley

Step into the past: Brigade Days

 Re-enactors and history buffs will celebrate the arrival of the fur brigades this weekend in historic Fort Langley.

BY TROY LANDREVILLE, LANGLEY ADVANCE JULY 28, 2011

Fort Langley National Historic Site interpreter Christa Hudson stood in front a mural outside the site’s visitor centre. Hanson is involved in this weekend’s Brigade Days.

History will repeat itself, through re-enactments vignettes, and activities, in and around the Fort Langley National Historic Site this weekend.

Interpreters playing the roles of Hudson’s Bay Company workers, Aboriginal traders, and trappers will swap stories, play music, and show off traditional skills during the historic site’s annual Brigade Days, which starts Saturday, July 30, and runs until Monday, Aug. 1.

The weekend features a large period encampment, musical performances, and the arrival of the fur brigades on the Monday.

All weekend, visitors can watch demonstrations of blacksmithing, wool carding and spinning, historic weapons, baking, flint and steel, and barrel-making, while taking part in some of the fort’s signature programs such as Story of the Voyageurs and Fur Trade Wedding.

An annual highlight is the fur brigades arrival Monday at 1 p.m.

Visitors are urged to cheer on the canoe brigades, and hear the exciting bagpipe and black powder salute.

The traditional re-enactment portrays the annual return of fur traders in the 1800s. The travellers transported the year’s intake of furs from interior and northern trading posts to Fort Langley, later to be delivered by ship back to England.

The fur trade powered the site both economically and culturally.

FLNHS special event/volunteer coordinator Gerry Borden said the industry “was the whole reason for the fort being here.”

“If it hadn’t been for the fur trade and companies like the Hudson’s Bay Company that explored and established places like this, we probably wouldn’t have the country that we have today,” he said.

The establishment of the Fort in the 1800s allowed settlers to establish trade, solidify relations with the First Nations people and acquire local resources to be sent to market further afield, Borden said.

Brigade Days gives the FLNHS staff an opportunity to talk about the system of posts established by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

“People come here and they see the Fort as a single entity, as a unit, but don’t necessarily get the sense of system,” he said, “so we have a better opportunity, with the arrival of fur brigades, to talk about the various places from whence they came, such as Fort St. James, Fort Kamloops, Fort Colville, and a variety of places on the west side of the Rocky Mountains.”

The weekend also includes:

A barbecue and street dance featuring the band Mid Life Crisis on Saturday from 7-11 p.m., in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall at 9167 Glover Road. The Scottish Country Dancers will perform at the same location earlier Saturday afternoon.

Beaver Tales Theatre performances featuring Parks Canada’s very own theatre troupe on Sunday.

The story goes like this: when Justine Beaver finds an invitation to Parks Canada’s centennial celebrations stuck in her dam, she can’t wait to find the party. Along the way she meets urbanite and junk food-junkie, Fingers the Raccoon. Together they get into all kinds of trouble when they sneak into Fort Langley to find out the real reason the beaver is an important symbol for Parks Canada. Throughout their adventures, Justine comes to realize her role as a historic and cultural icon for Parks Canada and its place as a world leader in conservation and education.

The annual picnic in the fort features Swing Patrol, and the grand finale of the weekend will be a free concert in the fort featuring the Langley Community Music School Fiddlers and Swing Patrol Monday at 6 p.m.

The fun is sponsored by the Fort Langley Community Improvement Society.

Visitors can order a picnic from the Full Barrel Café or bring their own and sit back and enjoy the music.

Each of the three days, the Fort will host a guided tour at 9 a.m., a flag raising procession at 10 a.m., historic weapons at 10:30 a.m., and discussions on women of the fur trade at 11 a.m. Other highlights include a fur trade wedding Saturday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 3 p.m., and a fur trade game show Saturday and Sunday at noon.

Borden said the Fort said a number of Europeans looking to soak in the fur trade and “wild west” experience travel to Fort Langley each year to take in the celebration.

When the canoes arrive on the shores of Fort Langley early Monday afternoon, Borden hopes to keep the experience as authentic as possible and urges operators of modern, motorized vessels to steer clear of the arrival area from about 11 a.m. until the ceremony ends, sometime around 2 p.m.

“We’ve had a good working relationship with the Township of Langley,” he said. “They provide opportunities to close off Marina Park for the arrival day. It doesn’t always work but we certainly rely upon the local community to help support this event and these activities by keeping the boat-launch area clear, at least for the short period of time that we require it for the landing of our canoes.”

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