38th annual Prairie Villa Rendezvous begins Thursday

The Big River Long Rifles will once again take over St. Feriole Island this weekend for the Prairie Villa Rendezvous, an event the local non-profit organization has organized, in cooperation with the city of Prairie du Chien, every Father’s Day weekend for the past 38 years.

The event will run from Thursday, June 13 through Sunday, June 16, rain or shine, and feature pre-1840s period demonstrations, competitions, food and dress, as well as a flea market.

Sindee Gohde, BRLR treasurer and marketing director, said the Rendezvous offers more than just a flea market.

“Some people see the flea market and think that’s what Rendezvous is,” Gohde said. “They don’t know they can come over to the camp. The actual Rendezvous is on [the campground] and we welcome people to stop by and talk with us.”

BRLR welcomes people to visit the grounds on Thursday to watch the teepees, wall tents, pyramid tents and marquee go up. 

Thursday through Sunday, visitors can watch ongoing blacksmithing, pottery, weaving and storytelling demonstrations.

“It’s an open teaching environment,” explained BRLR President Martha Tieman. “Every camp is willing to answer questions.”

Aside from the ongoing activities, each day offers other events that are open to the public for observation. The women’s games take place on Friday at 3 p.m., featuring activities like a rope wood toss and a bean bag toss.

Friday also includes a primitive cooking contest, where contestants cook over an open fire and can only use items that were available in the area in the pre-1840s period. This year’s category is a main dish, and contestants will be judged on authenticity, presentation (the type of dish the food is served in, like cast iron or stoneware) and taste. Even the recipe has to be presented  to the judges on pre-1840s-style paper.

Saturday features more events throughout the day, with black powder shooting, knife, hawk and bow shoot competitions.

This year’s Rendezvous will also feature a primitive wedding, which will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Gohde said the primitive wedding is a little different than a conventional wedding. The ceremony will be Native-American-style, officiated by Rendezvous participant Nakoma, while the couple, Sarah Shefelbine and Roger Seitz, remain wrapped in a blanket. Tieman said weddings are a common occurrence at the Rendezvous; sometimes they are an actual wedding, while others are renewals. This couple’s wedding will be symbolic, as they will be getting married in a church later in the year.

On Sunday morning, visitors can attend an inter-denominational period worship service, which includes Gospel readings. The minister also dresses in a period-style, long robe with a hood.

The children’s games for the registered campers follow the services. Past games have included a hay dig, where kids sift through a hay pile to find prizes, a scavenger hunt and a gunny sack race. 

“We can entertain all ages,” said Gohde. “There’s something for

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