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One last time

20th Koh-Koh-Mah reenactment brings event to a close

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Native Americans—Koh-Koh-Mah &Foster Living History Encampment will come to an end this weekend after 20 years.

RUSSIAVILLE - The Koh-Koh-Mah & Foster Living History Encampment is coming to an end.

For 20 years, the living reenactment of pioneer life and French and Indian War battles has entertained and educated both children and adults.

But now, just as the event returns after a COVID-19 cancellation in 2020, Bob Auth, the Russiaville man who has spearheaded the event on his own property, feels as if 20 is the magic number.

“I’ve done this for 20 years and I’ve loved every bit of it,” Auth said. “I’ve loved serving the community. [My wife and I] want to do some fall camping and it just seemed like after 20 years it was a good time. I will be shedding tears, that’s for sure.”

Fans and newcomers alike can expect the same quality events Auth has provided over the past two decades. He promises good food, good music, and good battles between the French and British armies and their Native American allies. Two battles will take place Saturday, Sept. 18 (11 a.m. and 4 a.m.) and one on Sunday, Sept. 19 (2 p.m.).

There also will be candle dipping, a tug of war between the Native American participants and oxen, tomahawk throwing, a quilting workshop and other era appropriate activities including an 18th century church service on Sunday morning.

The reenactment began after a film was made on Auth’s property and was distributed to fourth-grade classrooms across the state by the Indiana Historical Society.

“I thought, ‘We could do a reenactment here,’” said Auth, who is a fan of events like Feast of the Hunter’s Moon (in Lafayette on Oct. 9-11) and The Battle of 1812 (in Grant County on Oct. 1-3). “It just started growing. We wanted it to be a juried event where you have to submit your clothing, submit pictures of your camp, your military unit, your demonstration and write a small article about what you do. We created something in good detail, so when you come out here, you are going to see some things exactly the way they were around 1750 during the French and Indian War.”

The event has always strived for authenticity, said Randy Smith of the Kokomo Historical Society, who has helped with candle dipping since 2012.

“We did the best we could,” Smith said. “We hope that [attendees] learned a few things when they came out, that it maybe gave them a better understanding of pioneer life, because you pretty much had to make everything. That’s what I hope the people who came to it understood.”

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This year’s event features a parley between the Native Americans and the British and French armies. Auth said both armies will offer the Indians goods in an attempt to persuade them to join their side in battle.

“That’s the way it truly happened,” he said. “They will be swapping and trading and then at the end the Indians will say, ‘We are going to support the French or we might just support the British.’ You never knew who they were going to support because it was their land to begin with and they were just trying to save their own lands.”

A particular favorite event for Auth is the Friday school day before the event opens to the public. The kids will be able to experience the demonstrations, visit the different camps, enjoy 18th century music and watch a skirmish between the French and British armies.

He also loves listening to the reenactors during the night. They stay in character after their audience leaves and the woods are filled with laughter and music.

“I love walking through and listening to the different sounds at night,” Auth said. “A lot of the time I don’t even go through the camps. I just stay on the edges and listen.”

It takes three weeks for Auth, his wife and other participants to set up for the event. Over the years, Auth said the most participants they’ve had was around 900. He expects 650-800 this weekend. In terms of attendance, he said the best year was an audience of 8,000.

During the first year in 2000, the event had 200 workers and 2,000 visitors.

In the 21 years since he began hosting the event, Auth said community and friendship were the most important aspects for him. He loved putting smiles on people’s faces.

“It’s a lot of work, but when Friday gets here it just pays huge dividends on happiness,” he said.

“It’s been a huge part of my life and my wife’s life, and it’s going to be a sad close to the weekend, that’s for sure.”

Koh-Koh-Mah runs Sept. 18-19 with a school day on Sept. 17. Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and students, and children 5 and under are free. For more information visit http://www.kohkohmah.com/index.html.