New at Civil War event in Elgin: fashion show & Johnnycakes
The third annual Elgin Civil War Experience, held this weekend, will feature new elements -- a period fashion show and period food, aka fresh Johnnycakes -- and the re-enactment of two major battles.
More than 300 re-enactors signed up to participate in the event Saturday and Sunday, led by the 9th Virginia Cavalry Company B on the property adjacent to 600 S. State St., Elgin. The Battle of Atlanta at 3 p.m. Saturday and the Battle of Ezra Church at 3 p.m. Sunday will feature simulated combat with infantry drills, artillery drills and cavalry competitions, as well as battle trenches that re-enactors couldn't use last year because of rain, organizer John Braese said.
Actors portraying historical figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, Harriet Tubman and Jefferson Davis will roam the grounds.
Johnnycakes are a sort of cornmeal pancakes, said Ryan Waesche, executive chef of Of Food Catering based at Dream Kitchen in Elgin. He plans to serve two savory and two sweet varieties of Johnnycakes; other food available will include BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, tacos and veggie egg rolls.
Also new this year is a game of "rounders," a precursor to baseball, at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, said Braese, a longtime re-enactor who lives in Roscoe and works for the city of Elgin's public works department. The game is played with balls made of strips of leather and bats made of carved wood, and players can catch balls with their hats and get tagged if balls are thrown at them, Braese said.
There will be candlelight tours starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by a performance of period music and dance and a "night fire" at 9:30 p.m. with the firing of cannons.
Most Civil War re-enactment events don't offer organized nighttime activities, which is a particularly fun thing in Elgin, said re-enactor Josef Venable of Harwood Heights. "Usually we spend rest of evening among ourselves, but Elgin gives us the opportunity to do some military function at night for the public. Doing things at night definitely changes the perspective."
Venable is among those helping Braese organize the event. "From a military perspective, it's always exciting to put on these events and put on the battles," he said. Personally, "it's kind of like a big family. I have made friends for life."
Kate O'Leary, special events coordinator for the city of Elgin, said the passion of the re-enactors has driven the city-sponsored event since 2017. "The re-enactors are an incredibly dedicated group of people who really turn the event grounds into a step back in time," she said.
More than 1,000 people attended the first year, and about 800 people attended last year, when the weather caused a rainout on the second day, she said.
Braese said he fervently hopes for good weather this weekend. "The first year it was 90 degrees and last year we got rained out," he said. "Hopefully the third year is a charm."
If you goWhat: Third annual Elgin Civil War Experience
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6:45 to 10 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Property adjacent to 600 S. State St., Elgin
Admission: Tickets are $5 at cityofelgin.org/civilwartickets or at the gate. Free for children under 5 and with valid ID for veterans, active military and currently enrolled Elgin Community College students. People who attend during the day Saturday can get a wristband to come back for nighttime events.