Visitors at Sweet's Civil War Encampment this weekend in Lombard will get a realistic glimpse at the state of the nation 150 years ago, from candlelight tours of Union and Confederate camps to visits with an embalmer, a laundress, a blacksmith and plenty of soldiers.
"It is a really fun way to see history in a way you may have not thought about it before," event coordinator Sarah Richardt said. "You don't even realize you're learning while you're there."
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Now in its fourth year, the encampment will run from Friday to Sunday at Four Seasons Park. Parking is available on the Main Street side of the park, near Glen Westlake Middle School and Manor Hill Elementary School. Admission is free, but a $5 donation to the Lombard Historical Society is suggested.
The movie "Lincoln" will be shown in the park at 8 p.m. Friday and re-enactments will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. An 11:30 a.m. skirmish and a 2:30 p.m. main battle, complete with cannons, mounted cavalry, and lots of noise, will take place both days.
"It's a whole pyrotechnic show," Richardt said. "If you can only come for one thing, come for the battle at 2:30."
The candlelight camp tour is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday and a new addition to the event, ballroom dance lessons, will take place at noon on Sunday.
Richardt said the encampment started as a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It was named after Gen. Benjamin Sweet, who ran a Confederate prison camp in Chicago and moved to Babcock's Grove -- the original name of Lombard -- after the war.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended last year, Richardt said. In addition, an estimated 150 to 200 living-history educators from across the Midwest are expected to stay in Lombard for the weekend.
Richardt said the village uses money from its hotel/motel tax to help pay for the encampment and she expressed gratitude for their support and the support of the park district and other sponsors who keep the event free.
Besides watching the battles, families can participate in a scavenger hunt, which requires kids to collect stamps at different areas of the park.
Guests also can visit with a group of sutlers, who were merchants that followed the Civil War soldiers and sold items such as clothing and cookware at their camps. They will have an opportunity to even buy some period reproductions of their own, from jackets to ballgowns.
Food trucks will be at the park Saturday and Sunday selling a variety of food, including some items prepared from recipes dating back to the 18th century.
Richardt said the event tends to appeal especially to preteens and older men, but she is confident attendees of every age will find something that interests them at the encampment.
"They're not just out there playing with guns," she said. "They're relaying history."
For details, visit www.lombardhistory.org.